Horatio Morale

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

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a character in “Dogs in God's Vineyard”, as played by Magus1108


Horatio Morale


Age: 55
Gender: Male
Ethnicity/Race: Caucasian
Level of Faith: Doubtful; a man can only handle so many tragedies before his Faith in God is shattered.
Years of Service: 35 Years
Weapons/Equipment: A jar of consecrated dirt, a sturdy and able horse, a copy of the Book of Life, a Colt Peacemaker (Revolver), a Winchester Rifle, a faithful hound by the name of Knight, various bags and packs to carry his ammunition and personal effects, and a series of private, handwritten letters from his youth.


Horatio is a gruff and terse individual; he doesn't make friends or comrades easily, nor does he have a liking for making friends. He does not tend to be rude or overbearing, but at the same time he tries to keep to himself. He is very quiet, and only speaks his mind when necessary. Horatio often comes across as unfriendly, cold, and judgemental. And Horatio likes that. Most of the time he doesn't like people getting close to him, so when possible, he tries to wall himself off from gestures of friendship or comradery.

Still, deep down, Horatio is a good man. His heart has been dulled and chipped away at with age and pessimissim, but there is still a sparkle of the man he used to be, down there. To people that he knows well, Horatio can be a genial and understanding man; still somewhat terse, still somewhat cold, but such traits are more tempered by his better nature. Still, the list of people around that Horatio can be that kind of person to has dwindled to no less than a handful; and he isn't quite willing to allow new people to...fill up those positions, as it were.

Horatio also has another personality, of sorts, that he shows to a certain list of people...and that list is filled with vile, hateful criminals and scumbags. To anyone that commits any sort of injustice, Horatio can be their worst nightmare. He will fixate on them as if they are the devil themselves, and will not stop until they are dead. He is especially hateful toward sickos that prey on children, and bandits that attack people out on the trails.


Horatio has lived a long and colorful life, to say the least.

He had humble beginnings, being born as the son of a simple Archdeon in a small and quaint town of the Faith. He lived a relatively peaceful life, and under the tutoring of his father, became a full member of the Faith. When he was around eleven years of age, a group of Dogs visited his home town, and dished out their own unique justice while present. Horatio became quite captivated with the Dogs, and once they left town, he vowed to himself to become just like them.

When Horatio was eighteen years old, he left his family and his hometown and traveled to New Life. There, he enrolled into the Watchdog Academy, and began his training. Two years later he became ordained as an official Watchdog of God, and got assigned to his own roving unit of Dogs. Around five years later, he ended up meeting and falling in love with a fellow Dog, a woman by the name of Adella. The two dated for a time, and were soon married; marriage between Dogs was not prohibited, so the Church had no problem with a union between holy warriors.

A year after their marriage, Adella became pregnant with child. Horatio was overjoyed by this, and started envisioning a bright and wonderful future with his new and upcoming family. When Adella became too swollen to perform her duties, she and Horatio were given leave by their superiors, so Adella could safely give birth to the child. Horatio and his wife moved over to New Life and stayed there for the next few months, performing minor teaching duties at the academy while they waited for Adella to give birth.

The day in question soon arrived, but...things did not work out quite as Horatio had expected. Something went horribly wrong during the birthing process, and he ended up losing both Adella and his newborn son, Isaac. In a matter of hours, Horatio went from being happily married with an expecting wife, to losing it all and ending up alone.

Not long after he had buried both Adella and Isaac, Horatio returned to active duty as a Dog. He threw himself into his work, and refused to allow himself to grieve over his lost family. As a result, Horatio started to harden and become a much colder man; before, he had been jovial and happy, a friend to all of his fellow Dogs. But he threw that all away once his wife and newborn child died.

Things remained much the same for him, for the next thirteen years. He continued his duties as a Dog, but much more harshly; he was less forgiving, less kind, and much more wrathful toward sinners and criminals. After his thirty-ninth birthday, however, things took a turn for the better. Horatio took a job with a trio of Dogs who were assigned to protect a small border town from Native attacks. In that town, he met an intriguing and lively young woman, named Selina; the two soon became friends, and over time, grew very attracted to each other. Horatio was almost two decades older than her, but in such a harsh and unforgiving world, age mattered little to two people who truly fell in love. The town Archdeon soon wed them both, and Horatio started a new family with his new bride.

Horatio was worried about doing that, of course, given what had happened to his first wife. But Selina soothed his worries, and a year after their marriage, she gave birth to a healthy little girl, whom they named Judith. After spending some months with his wife and new daughter, Horatio was called back into active duty by his superiors, though he promised his wife that he'd visit her often. And so he did. Horatio continued his work with the Dogs, but when able, he still maintained a good and healthy relationship with Selina and his growing daughter Judith. With his new family at his side, a new light seemed to appear within Horatio; in many aspects, he reverted back to the kind and generous youth he had been, before the death of his first wife and son.

Eventually, he decided to retire from the Dogs, so he could spend his time fully with his wife, and his now eight year old daughter. He retired from the Dogs, with the full blessings of his friends and superiors, and settled into a new and peaceful life with his family. About two years after he retired, Horatio decided to go visit an old friend up north. Selina and Judith wanted to tag along with him, and so Horatio obliged. They rode together up north, and the journey itself proved largely uneventful. They made the trip successfully, and Horatio and his family spent a week there. Then they left for home. Once again, the journey was largely uneventful....until the second night of travel.

Over the course of a single night, everything changed.

In the dead of night, Horatio and his family were ambushed by bandits. The bandits caught Horatio by surprise, and subdued him before he could fight back. The following night was one of Living Hell, as the bandits proceeded to torture Horatio and his family until sunrise. By then, Horatio had lost both his wife and daughter, and he had been left for dead, his body broken and beaten. He nearly died out there, abandoned, but was happened upon by a passing group of Dogs. They rushed him over to the nearest doctor, and the long process of healing and recovery began for Horatio.

As soon as his broken bones were mended and his body was fit for duty, Horatio came out of retirement and became a Dog once again. He threw himself back into his work, and inbetween assignments, he started to hunt down the bandits that had ruined his life. And that's how Horatio has spent the last four years of his life; throwing himself back into his work as a Dog, and tracking down those bastard bandits. So far he's managed to track down and kill every single one of them over the past four years, except for one; the ringleader, a man by the name of Augustus Marston. Horatio has made a vow to hunt down and kill Augustus, so his vengeance can finally be complete. And perhaps then...he can finally end his miserable existence, and stop his suffering.

Their are only two things that's really keeping Horatio together, at this point in time: his new hound, a dog by the name of Knight, and the thought of eventual revenge.

Shortly after the tragedy with his second family, a longtime friend of his gave him a puppy, and told him to raise it into a proper hound. Horatio did so, and has been rewarded with a good and faithful companion. Knight is not one for talk, obviously, but his very presence soothes Horatio's pain quite a lot.

As for the revenge...he's almost exacted it, but until Augustus is dead, it won't be complete. Aside from taking care of Knight, the only thing that Horatio is willing to stay alive for is the thought of bringing Augustus Marston to fierce frontier justice. And Augustus WILL be brought to Justice, if it's the last thing Horatio does in his mortal life.


Die in peace, bring as many bad men to justice as he can before his death, and finally track down and kill that son of a bitch Augustus Marston.


  • Children
  • Dogs (The Animal)
  • Happy, unbroken families
  • Justice
  • His former apprentice of sorts, Anna Ward


  • Bandits
  • People who prey on women and children; especially perverts and monsters that prey on children
  • A man by the name of Augustus Marston
  • Savage Natives
  • Naive idealists

So begins...

Horatio Morale's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Episode One: The Red Road

The scorching sun hung high above in the sky, blasting its unrelenting rays upon everyone in its sight. The five Dogs riding forward were wearing cloaks to prevent sunburn, but they could feel the heat nonetheless. As far as they all could tell, it promised to be another regular afternoon in the West.

However, this would be the Packs first mission together. All of them had just been assigned under Horatio Morale's command, and this would be the first time any of them had worked with each other. Some of the Dogs may have known their new comrades from the past, but none of them had ever been in a Pack with the Dogs present. This would be a trial of sorts for them, for they would see how the other acted and worked first hand, and if they could truly function together as a unit.

As they continued on, a town came into sight in the distance. There, they would begin their first mission. The small settlement was called Red Road, named after a nearby trail. According to the Minister of the Watchdogs, Red Road had been experiencing some grave trouble lately, and would need all the help it could get from the Dogs.

Soon the Dogs arrived in the town, where a fair amount of people were already waiting for them. A few of the townspeople dismissed them offhand, thinking them simple travelers. However, the more observant of them caught a glimpse of the Dog insignia on their coats. Word soon spread that a Pack of Dogs were in Town, and by the time the Dogs had reached the center of town, a good sized crowd had gathered around, gawking at them. Reactions amongst the townsfolk were mixed; many were happy at the sight of the Dogs, while others seemed angry, perhaps fearful. It was to be expected, of course. Not all citizens of the West were Faithful, even though most of the religion's followers lived there. A lot of people did not like the Dogs at all, and even some among the Faithful did not have a good view of the Dogs, since they did not like having their Faith questioned, or their buried secrets aired for the world to see.

Out of the crowd, A relatively youthful man stepped out of the crowd and approached the dogs.

"Are you fellows Dogs? Thank the Lord Almighty! I'm glad to finally have some help around here! I'm Deputy...er, Sheriff, Thompson. A pleasure to meet you folks."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Anna rode along the road with the rest of the Dogs, tugging the brim of her hat down as if that might relieve the blistering sunlight even the slightest bit. Or, more important, keep her sight sharp enough to see anything in the distance. But there was all of nothing but rocks and plants scrabbling through the dirt. Overall an uneventful trip, which gave Anna time to observe her comrades. Horatio she knew, her father's old comrade and practically family. Her parents had spoke in hushed whispers of his terrible trials, but Anna knew better then to ask him of such things. When she was young Horatio had taught her much of the necessary skills to become a Dog and she valued his deadly calm and serious demeanor. The rest she had not met before their assembly, each curious in their own way. An old man with obvious native blood, a middle aged German, and a young man with the air of inexperience. A curious, if not balanced assortment. After all, experience was as necessary as youthful vigor and skill with a gun. Perhaps the Minister had something in mind when he chose them all, but his telegram had provided little detail. Anna did not question. If a town of the Faithful needed aid, she would provide it.

And eventually they rode into that town, Red Road. Overall, as equally unimpressive and without note as the scenery during their approach had been. Certainly there did not seem to be any vast difference from the dozens of little frontier towns Anna had passed through in her past years of duty. She peered across the growing crowd of curious onlookers, noting the usual reactions that such folk had when a Pack of Dogs rode into town. She briefly prayed that they would be cooperative, but in the end it mattered little. There was a duty to be done, one way or the other.

After the apparently newly appointed sheriff approached and spoke, Anna flashed the Dog insignia on her coat to answer his question. "What happened to the previous sheriff?" She asked, presuming whatever was plaguing this town likely would be answered with this. There was investigating to do throughout the town and it's denizens, of course, but this was a good start.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Warm water poured out of Gideon's canteen, spilling into his mouth and over his chin before he quickly righted it again. He swallowed with a grimace, the liquid hardly refreshing despite his thirst. He stopped up the leather container, lest he spill more. The gait of the blasted beast beneath him constantly shook and jostled him in the saddle, making it impossible to complete any chore with even the slightest amount of grace. The others didn't seem to have any trouble, their bodies rolling with the movement as if they'd been born to the saddle...which they probably had. Gideon was city-bred, and where he came from, only the well off could afford horses. Course, the poor had no need for 'em, unless it was for the stew pot. After he came West and joined the Academy, Gideon learned how to ride, though the lack of experience was telling. He'd not been on this long of a trek before, and his body hurt in places it wouldn't be polite to mention.

Despite some slight envy at the skill of his peers, Gideon was rather pleased to be in the company of such veterans. He knew of most of them, thanks to gossip amongst the Puppies at the Academy. He doubted another pack had more collective experience, and was confident he could learn a great deal. As such, he rode at the rear, content to watch the others while simultaneously (and somewhat self-consciously) hoping they did not pay too much attention to him. If only riding in back didn't have him eating the dust their mounts kicked up! He worked some spit around his mouth, feeling the grit stuck against his teeth, and suppressed the urge to take another drink.

At last they came upon Red Road, which was their destination so far as Gideon knew. He looked around at the simple buildings as they continued on past the outskirts of the town without dismounting. He eyed the growing crowd suspiciously, uncomfortable at being the center of such attention. He told himself that as a Dog, now, people were looking up to him, not down at him. One doesn't break a lifetime's worth of habits with ease, but the thought helped, and he made himself sit up a bit straighter in the saddle and meet the townsfolk's stares. Gideon glanced forward when a man stepped forward and introduced himself, but kept quiet while Anna questioned him.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Harrison smiles through the cloud of dust being spat from the heels of the riders in front of him. He runs a large, sweaty hand over the billowing ebony mane of his faithful horse companion; an Apaloosa he took to calling Kateri . He has taken up a place in the middle of the group, content to watch and learn the workings of the others. They are new to him, though he has heard about Horatio once or twice through the grapevine. He doesn't know much of the others and takes great delight in knowing they will all soon know each other better than pups born to a litter - or so he hopes.

Kateri decreases her steady gallop to a slow trot as they enter the town. Its a replica of the many others Harrison has seen in his long lifetime; However Harrison can't deny the nervous gut feeling that comes with being in unknown territory. He uses his free hand to clutch the cross at his throat, uttering a low prayer under his breath. People stare at them as they approach, eyes burning like red hot coals. Many dont take notice of them at first but are no doubt soon to notice their Dog insignias. Harrison sighs heavily aloud as they stop in the center of town; and of a very large crowd. Many of them looked upon him with narrow eyes or hatred clear on their faces. Diversity among this crowd is low, however a few faces shine with the inner Faith that allows them to see Harrison as an equal human rather than a Native man. He is no stranger to racism.

He returns his attention to his fellow Dogs just as the towns newly appointed sheriff steps foreward. He's a Faithful youth no doubt. Harrison can see that glint in his eyes and hear the Faith in his words. As Anna speaks up Harrison quietly turns to observe the townsfolk. He keeps one ear open to listen for the reply of the new sheriff, for he is also curious to know his answer. His eyes land on that of a young girls, her skin dark but decidedly not Native. She smiles when she notices him looking and waves. With his own smile Harrison raises his hand to the air. The girls mother looks disapproving as she places a protective arm around the child. Harrison doesn't blame her for being cautious, however he doesn't dismiss her actions as simply being watchful of her children. He with holds his next sigh and faces foreward once more. Soon enough the sin will be fleshed out and this place will be purged of its evils. Harrison smiles at the thought, hoping the people here will be cooperative rather than working against them. He makes sure to pay careful attention to his fellows, taking in their tiniest of movements. To anyone on the recieving end of Harrisons observations it may seem odd but to him its vital to understand the way the others work.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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#, as written by Tempest
There were many times in the past several years that William had found himself missing the cool pine ladened forests of the old country and on this day, riding in the heat towards another run down American shanty town, he felt the old longing return again. As a general rule he never spoke of the old country around others for most of them, while they recognized him as German, would know little else of a land that may as well have been on the moon for all they knew and that suited him just fine.

He found himself approving of this new pack he was to run with. A good mix of age, race and even a woman, that would prove to be exciting all in its own right. All of them would have their methods of finding things out and while he considered his more refined and civilized he was well aware that the fairer sex could be far more ruthless than any man in the search for answers.

The road dropped low for the moment and he lost sight of the town before they crested a small rise and it sprawled out below them, well, meandered out below them. It was a piss poor place named after a nearby trail and that alone was a good hint as to how unimportant it was in the greater scheme of things. A sign on their right named it as "Red Road" with a population of 135. Not many folk but there was always room for evil.

The buildings all looked well worn and wind battered. One or two looked like they might be slightly new but he was fairly certain that none of them had been built within the last five years. This town, like so many others, would be dead within twenty. No mines around here to support an increase in population and with the American government ramming the railway west, this little place would die slowly as travellers looked for faster, more comfortable transportation.

It looked as though the whole town had turned out to greet the new arrivals and while the young woman with them addressed the Sheriff as he stepped forward the German urged his horse slowly forward, circling around the right of the crowd. He smiled at the men who met his eye and touched his bowler brim to any woman who did the same. His eyes flickered through the group and he could see at once that the Dogs made them uncomfortable, that was good. Those who truly interested him were those who appeared happy to see them. In his experience, these were the people you had to watch.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Horatio led his horse into town, tipping his hat low to protect his face from the blistering sun. Beside him, his faithful hound Knight trodded along, keeping up with the slow gait of the horses quite comfortably. As they walked toward their destination, Horatio took a moment to look over his Pack, evaluating them as best as he could.

The only person in the Pack he knew well was Anna; sweet, darling little Anna, all grown up. Horatio had been friends with her father; in fact, the two had been in a Pack together, in their youth. And thus, when his friend retired and started his own family, Horatio came to know Anna. She had been a fiesty and daring little girl, and overall had been quite a joy to know. He'd taught her a great deal about being a Dog during her childhood; and seeing her now, as a full grown woman with eight years of being a Watchdog under her belt....it certainly proved to him that personally training her had been worth it. He was proud to see her as a full-fledged Dog, and considered it an honor to be in a Pack with her. It would be a pleasure to get to know her again, as an adult.

The other three, he did not know so well. William the German, he knew vaguely...in fact, the man had made an impression on him, some years ago. Horatio wasn't sure if William remembered him, but he certainly did. William had been apart of the Pack of Dogs that had rescued Horatio from certain death, the night after Augustus Marston and his vile, depraved group of bandits had tortured and destroyed his family. Horatio himself had been left for dead, and would have died, in fact, if not for sheer luck. And for that, Horatio was quite thankful. William had helped to save his life, and more importantly, given him the opportunity for revenge. Horatio would never forget that. Even if he didn't quite want to make...friends, with William, he would always respect the German and consider him a good comrade, at the very least.

Harrison--he absolutely refused to call the man 'Grandfather', because they were almost the same age, goddamnit!--was an....interesting character. He was of obvious Native birth, but held no apparent ties to his People, or their spiritual beliefs. By all accounts, Harrison was quite the Faithful man, very sure and steady in his belief. He had a tendency to get carried away with non-believers, sometimes....but other than that, the Native man seemed to be an able and apt Dog. He would make a suitable comrade.

And then there was the Pup. Horatio knew he had a name, but he honestly didn't care what it was. In his opinion, the Pup wasn't even a full Dog, and certainly hadn't earned the respect of being addressed by his real name. The boy was green, and very new at all this. Horatio knew that Packs with veteran Dogs were often saddled with Pups, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He'd come into his own, no doubt, given a few years of practice and application. But until then, he was a Pup in Horatio's eyes, and someone that wasn't worth any respect until he somehow proved himself in his Pack Leader's eyes. He'd probably prove decently competent, but Horatio would keep a close eye on him all the same. He wouldn't tolerate this Pup trying to screw up any missions due to his naivety or his foolhardy optimism.

And those were the four people he was saddled with in the Pack; not-so-little anymore Anna, the Native Harrison, the green-coated Pup, and his personal savior William. Quite an interesting Pack to have, to say the least. Horatio hoped he'd serve them well as their Pack Leader, and that they'd become a well-oiled and coordinated machine in the future.

His observations done, Horatio noticed that they were coming into town now. He looked around the quaint little town of Red Road, unimpressed with the sight that greeted him. It was like most little frontier towns in these parts; unimportant, insignificant, and liable to die off within the next few decades, as advancing railroads made little way-stations like this redundant.

Still, the folks here, Faithful or not, that tried to etch out a living in these little specks often deserved some amount of grudging respect. They either wouldn't or couldn't live a more easier live in a bigger, more important and thriving city in the West, and even with their limited supplies and options, these people tended to do moderately well. The men and women that decided to make a meager living in these types of towns truly lived a hard life. Even if Horatio didn't like towns like Red Road, these shanty quasi-villages and the folk that inhabited them earned some small amount of admiration and respect from him.

They reached the center of town soon enough, and by then, they had attracted a fairly large crowd. For the most part he ignored the people and their reactions; though he did briefly glance over them, and dismissed them when he found no familiar faces. He kept a stone-faced expression, a light scowl on his face; it was foolish to think he might find Augustus in a town like Red Road, of course, but that never stopped him from trying and hoping. One day, he'd finally find that son of a bitch...

A young man stepped out of the crowd, and addressed the Dogs as a whole. Horatio let Anna take the lead here, curious to see her in action. Usually the Pack Leader opened up dialogue with the town authorities, but Horatio wasn't a real hard-ass about protocol. Far as he was concerned, the first Dog that managed to speak up could start up talks.

The newly appointed Sheriff grimaced and sighed, shaking his head slightly. "That's....a grim story to tell, Ma'am. Sheriff Coobs was murdered three days ago; his throat was slit in the middle of the night, while he was working at his office. But...if you can believe it, ma'am, that's honestly the least of our troubles. I'd be more than happy to tell you fine folk more of our troubles in Sheriff Coobs'....er, my office now, I guess."

Sherrif Thomspon walked through the gathered crowd, and the Dogs soon followed him. He led them over to the edge of town, where the Sherrif's office and town jail was located. The Dogs hitched their horses outside, and followed him in. Thompson walked into the small building, and led them over to a simple wooden desk that consisted of the Sherrif's office; on the walls around the room, wanted posters were hung on the wall, displaying the description and bounties of local outlaws. A door to the left of the office led further into the building; beyond that door was the town jail, where local ne'er dowells were kept until.

Thompson sat down behind the desk, and motioned for the Dogs to take up some nearby chairs that littered the sparse room.

"Sorry that my accomodations aren't more...welcoming. If I had known you folk were coming into town, I might have tried to clean things up." Thompson sincerely apologized. The new Sheriff leaned back into his chair and looked up thoughtfully, fiddling a little with the badge on his chest.

"I swear, this town has gone to hell in a handbasket in the last two months. That's when all our troubles started; two months ago. Two months back a ranch outside of Red Road was hit pretty bad. All the men and women were slaughtered, and the children were taken God knows where. The Sheriff led a band of men to investigate, and he concluded that it must have been some sort of bandit attack. He tried to track down them down, but didn't find a single trace of 'em. It was a terrible tragedy, sure, but we thought it was the end of that.

"We were wrong. Two weeks later, another ranch got hit; same situation there. Men and women killed like animals, the children dragged off to the unknown. Then another two week later, the same thing happened down at the Peterson Ranch. Two weeks after that, the Jackson family got hit at their Ranch. Almost all of the local ranches nearest Red Road have been hit by...God knows what. Sheriff Coobs started to think that the local tribe of Natives was causing all the trouble, so he decided to call out for some help; that's where you folks come in, I suppose.

"The latest ranch attack was over with Jacob Daniels and his family, six days ago; same thing happened with them, but we got a survivor there. Their youngest son, Jeremiah, was apparently left their by the Natives, or bandits, or whoever. Sheriff Coobs was trying to see if he could get anything out of him about the attack, but poor little Jeremiah is pretty traumitized, and, well...he was born blind, so it's been difficult to get much out of him.

"That isn't the end of our troubles, there. About five weeks ago, people traveling through the Red Road Trail have been getting ambushed by Natives; or they say it's Natives, at least. I'm not so sure. At any rate, a lot of good people are getting killed and looted over at the Trail, which has put a mighty fear on travelers. That's the other reason the Sheriff sent out for help; to get some support with that situation. Whether or not the Natives are behind the attacks at the ranches and at the Trail, we'll need a sizable gang to help root that out.

"And then there is Red Road's final problem. Like I said, three days ago, Sheriff Coobs was murdered here, in this office. His throat was cut and he bled out to death. It was a horrible sight. I arrested a local by the name of Nathaniel Blake for the murder; he and the Sheriff have always been at odds. Apparently their fathers hated each other, or something, and they've continued that tradition. Nate's the most likely suspect, but honestly....I don't think he did it. Nate's not a murderer. He may have hated Coobs, but he'd never really kill the Sheriff. I just locked him up for the well-being of the Town, to calm everyone down. I honestly don't know who would want to murder Sheriff Coobs; Nate's the only one that comes to mind, and like I said, I honestly don't think he did it."

Sheriff Thompson finished his little tirade, and gave a sigh. "Well, as you fine folk can see, Red Road has got a lot of problems these days. Do you have any questions about what's going on? I'd be happy to tell you whatever I know, if it helps us end this blasted nightmare."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Following Horatio and the others, Anna hitched her horse and entered the sheriff's office. She glanced about, a sharp eye taking in and analyzing every detail. She glanced to Horatio, silently wondering if he would take a more vocal lead, but then again, he was a quiet man. And every time Anna had seen him over the years, he always seemed to grow steadily more reclusive and taciturn. But that suited Anna fine, it was the sign of a good Pack Leader to let his comrades work as they saw best, and he only needed to interject if his experience led him to a better solution.

Taking a seat along with the rest of the Dogs, Anna leaned back as she examined the young sheriff. The wheels in Anna's head were already turning as soon as the sheriff began to speak. A young deputy abruptly promoted after his predecessor's murder. A dark, but not entirely uncommon occurrence. The boy didn't seem suspicious and the position of sheriff in a town such was Red Road was hardly prestigious, but she still made a note to investigate him as much as the rest of the much more suspicious matters plaguing the town. What was far more disconcerting was the attacks on the ranches. Brutality was not uncommon from bandits or Natives. However, neither of them were likely to butcher so thoroughly, much less take children. And then there was the multiple attacks, all while the sheriff and his posse could never track down the culprits. This was different. Anna knew that immediately, but as to why, that would require investigation. All Anna could be reasonably sure of was that this was no simple matter of bandits or raiders.

She kept her voice low, although her regular tone was not much louder, intending only to be heard by to the other Dogs. "It will be difficult to pick up a trail six days old. I suggest speaking among the townsfolk first, then perhaps on to the nearest Native encampment as well. The sheriff's murder is likely related to the attacks, but we would be lucky if the accused man knows anything, but we should approach every angle." Her father had always said that you could learn nearly everything of note of a small frontier town like Red Road by simply speaking with the archdeon, the barkeeper, and the sheriff. If that was still not enough, the perhaps the mayor as well, or any offices with the local mining or railroad companies. As for any nearby camp of Natives, that could prove complicated. Fortunately Harrison would presumably be able to make better progress with them then the rest of the Pack. Hopefully his gentle nature could help with the blind boy as well. Anna was certainly more comfortable and experienced with interrogating a nervous sinner rather then a traumatized child.

Anna glanced back to the sheriff, as if his presence was hardly of note. Presumably, he expected to be included in the investigation. But he was young and inexperienced, not to mention too tied to the rest of the town. His only use was information and he would have to be content enough with aiding the righteous Dogs in that manner. "What else was taken from the ranches? Goods, livestock? Were the houses burned? And did the attackers leave anything behind? Arrows or bullet casings, loose clothes, or a symbol of a gang?" The scenes of the atrocities could be investigated as well, in due time, but far too much time had passed already and Anna was not confident of finding anything worthwhile. Anna also wondered of the competence and dealings of the previous sheriff, but that was not something she intended to ask his deputy just yet. This was a small town and the people would know something, even if they would not be so straightforward as to admit it so easily. That was what the Dogs were for, after all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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After blinking, Gideon's brows lowered. A murdered sheriff was the least of these people's problems? He knew that there was going to be some trouble in the little town. They wouldn't send a pack of Dogs to investigate if there wasn't. Still, he'd been expecting something more along the lines of the bartender keeping a brothel in the back, or some ranchers feud that needed to be straightened out. The death of a sheriff, usually one of the top authorities in a place like this, seemed pretty serious. What could be worse than that? It seemed like Gideon was to get a trial by fire with his first assignment. The only comforting thought on the matter was that the more Veteran Dogs had to know what to do, and seen the like of this trouble before. He followed along with the others as they rode past the gathered crowd and up to the Sheriff's office and the town Jail. Compared to some of the establishments they had back East, it didn't look like much. Likely more a place to let the town drunks sober up than to keep dangerous men. Dangerous men, out here, they just put under six feet of soil.

After dismounting, Gideon tied up his mount along with the others, and followed them inside. He had been hoping for the shade to provide a bit of relief from the heat, but it still felt stifling. Perhaps it was all of the people standing inside, but he guessed the village was just rather uncomfortable no matter what. While the others settled in around the new default sheriff, he let his eyes rove over the building's interior, finally settling on the various posters of wanted men. He scanned them idly, even while keeping his ears open to the man Thompson's tale. He could hardly believe his ears! Entire ranches full of people being killed? Even the kids taken away? Sure, he had heard such stories in the Academy when he was a Pup, but he'd put a majority of them down to rumor and gossip traded amongst the young men. Such stories will always inflate in order to boost the valor of those within them. That such could actually occur...There was a reason the Faith had a force like the Dogs.

Gideon waited until the story was complete before he tried to start putting ideas together in his head. A band of Natives seemed possible in regards to the attacks on ranchers. He'd had little contact with them himself, having stayed primarily to the city after coming in on the train, but the stories told him plenty. Even back East, their quasi-war for their 'stolen' lands was known. It didn't sound like bandits. In his experience, one generally steals in order to make a profit. The best way to do that long-term was to keep your head down, and not set off too many alarms. Killing, on the other hand, set off as many alarms as could be found, especially when women and children were involved. Even if the men were of blackest hearts, they could kidnap the women for ransom, or sell them into the service of brothels or a ship. Killing...well, frankly, it was a waste. He figured bandits would also be smart enough to move off to raid another town after the first massacre to avoid being caught. It wasn't like the West lacked for small, poorly defended town and ranches. His suspicion was drawn to the Sheriff. Not the current one, no, though he could be a part of it. In Gideon's experience, cops were always crooked, and if they couldn't bust some criminals, well, they'd turn honest folk into criminals just to give themselves something to do. More power to hold over people, more authority, and more adoration from those still considered innocent. It fit in Gideon's mind that the sheriff and his posse hadn't been able to find anything or anyone...since they would have just been looking for themselves. Some townsman probably got wind of the plan, mayhap one who had kin at the ranches, and he took his revenge on the sheriff.

Course, Gideon had no proof that matters had fallen out that way, save his own bias. And he certainly wasn't going to share that with the others.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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"Nothing else was taken from the ranches, ma'am. The livestock were left, and the houses themselves were largely intact, aside from some bullet-holes when a shootout occurred. Which wasn't often; when I investigated all the previous attacks with Sheriff Coobs, most of the ranches looked more like a slaughterhouse than a battlefield. The Sheriff guessed that the attackers somehow caught the ranchers by surprise. We found a lot of bullet-casings, but other than that, nothing that identified the raiders. And even using bullets don't rule out Natives; a lot of the Tribes out here have adopted to using guns and rifles over bows and arrows." Sheriff Thompson calmly informed.

Horatio, meanwhile, sat back and took everything in, mentally noting down everything Thompson proclaimed. This would be one hell of a job, that was for sure...

"Harrison, you and another Dog, or maybe even the Sherriff here, ought to go to the Native encampment, when it comes time for that. I'm sure Thompson here can point you in the right direction. I'll head over to the Red Road Trail with a partner and see if we can't find any trace of the bandits over there...out of all the problems, that ought to be easiest to fix, considering those idiots stay in one general area over there. And Anna's right that trying to track a trail six days old would be difficult to do. Another one of us ought to talk to the survivor here, see if that can't get us somewhere." Horatio suggested gruffly, after thinking over a possible course of action.

Aside from the fact that Harrison absolutely had to go to the Native encampment here, Horatio didn't want to explicitly order or otherwise tell his Pack where they needed to go. He was still getting used to them all, so for the moment all the other Dogs would know where their abilities would suit them best, when they split up for the investigation.

Damn, this was gonna be one of those missions. The town Sherriff murdered in the dead of night? The nearby trail getting attacked by Natives or bandits? A whole host of nearby ranches getting raided by God knows what? This was gonna be a Trial by Fire for this Pack, that was for sure. It'd take all of them together to sort through this mess.

The thing that concerned Horatio the most was the ranch thing. People getting attacked on trails wasn't too uncommon, nor was the town sheriff getting killed. But entire ranches getting attacked? The men and women slaughtered, the children taken away? This...this was very concerning. Especially the part about the children being taken away. That fact unsettled Horatio the most, and the implications there made him shudder. If a single head of hair was plucked from those poor kids, he'd tear the responsible people apart. No one messed with kids while he was around. Not if they wanted to live.

"I'd be more than happy to accompany Dog...Harrison, is it? I'd be more than happy to accompany Dog Harrison to the Native encampment, if you so wish. The Sheriff made a point of knowing where the Natives liked to camp, even before this whole mess, so I should have a pretty good idea of where they are." Sheriff Thompson offered kindly, inclining his head toward the Native Dog.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Harrison listens dutifully to the young newly appointed sheriff speaking, telling of the way the former Sheriff met his untimely end. It sparked a feeling in Harisson - one of anger that must have shone in his eyes. To kill another is a great sin in his eyes, seeing as taking a life is nearly as high on his sin list as owning anothers life. He keeps his gaze level and pensive, listening but not speaking up to interrupt. Harrison knows the clear difference between a time for listening and a time to speak.

The young Sheriff leads them to his office. Its inside a roughly constructed building like many of the others in this town. He dismounts and ties Kateri up even though he doubts she would wander off anyways.

He takes this time to make think through his observations of his fellow dogs; the woman, Anna, seems to be a strong and independant type - or in the least someone able to stand up for herself. Harrison looks foreward to getting to know her in the future. Then there's the German man William. Harisson hasn't been able to exactly pinpoint his thoughts on this man. He had certainly heard about William but has crossed his path only once in his lifetime and that had only been a brief moment of eye to eye contact while passing through a town much like this one. The Pup, Gideon, seems a little greener than usual and Harrison briefly wonders if he's even ready for this. Of course Harrison knows that if the pup ever gets in trouble he would gladly help out, as is his duty as a veteran dog. Then there's Horatio who is close to his own age and whom Harrison has heard of many times before. The old Native is glad to see another Veteran here to even out the score. All in all he has little doubt of the relationships that will bloom between them all.

As they are led in he takes note that the office is nothing spectacular. A wooden desk sits central of the room with the walls decorated in Wanted Posters of each and every kind. He scans the faces on the walls but see's no one he's ever seen. Thompson takes a seat at his desk and motions for the chairs; wich Harrison gladly takes up the offer to sit. Its hot outside and though Kateri has a calm and steady gait she still makes Harrison woozy when dismounting after a long ride. From that point on he continues listening to the new sheriff speak of their troubles. Its grave to hear that his people could be behind so many deaths and the harming of others. Though he doesn't hold any of his Native ways above the Faith hr also doesn't like hearing of these tragedies possibly occuring at the hands of his own. However more unsettling is that children are being taken. Innocents whom probably never knew what was happening as they were being taken. Harrison frowns a little, his dark face set in deep concentration.

"Harrison, you and another Dog, or maybe even the Sherriff here, ought to go to the Native encampment, when it comes time for that. I'm sure Thompson here can point you in the right direction. I'll head over to the Red Road Trail with a partner and see if we can't find any trace of the bandits over there...out of all the problems, that ought to be easiest to fix, considering those idiots stay in one general area over there. And Anna's right that trying to track a trail six days old would be difficult to do. Another one of us ought to talk to the survivor here, see if that can't get us somewhere" Harrison gives a small incomprehensible smile, he admires the way Horatio seems to be trying to give the Pack directions while not forcing his word on them - its a true act of someone faithful.

"I'd be more than happy to accompany Dog...Harrison, is it? I'd be more than happy to accompany Dog Harrison to the Native encampment, if you so wish. The Sheriff made a point of knowing where the Natives liked to camp, even before this whole mess, so I should have a pretty good idea of where they are." Harrison looks to the Sheriff and nods his head in appreciation. Though he could probably find the Native encampment himself he would rather take the speedy route. "That's very kind Sheriff, I will follow your lead when the time bids us. I could also try talking to the boy...Jeremiah? Many children are sensitive and when faced with something like that. . ." Harrison trails off, thinking of the horrors the boy must have seen and gone through. "I of course would only do this with word from you Horatio," he turns to the closely aged man whom he has already identified as the clear Pack leader. Even though Harrison takes no rule from another he knows protocol must be followed to ensure their Pack stays safe and friendly woth each other.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Anna nodded slowly as she listened to the sheriff, and then to Horatio. The boy had only confirmed what she had speculated. These were no ordinary bandits or Native raiders. Bandits would have ransacked the ranches for every last bit of remotely valuable goods. And raiders would have burned everything and killed the livestock if they intended to drive the settlers away from what the Natives might presume to be their land. And neither would have methodically killed every soul in sight.

"We should not travel alone, given the fate of the previous sheriff." To be fair, the sheriff was no Dog. But caution was well suited at this point, when they knew so little. "These are no simple bandits, nor Natives. If nothing else, that much is clear. We must be cautious. Myself and another can began to speak with the townsfolk. One of them will know more of this transgression, even if they make not be so forward at first." She glanced over her fellow dogs. Harrison would likely be preoccupied with the boy and then the Natives, while Horatio intended to investigate the trail. That left the German and the Pup. Anna shrugged to herself ever so slightly, either suited her well enough. She only needed someone to play opposite to her in the interrogations. There was a town full of people to investigate and likely a town full of secrets to uncover. Anna could only hope that these attacks were the worst of it. Everything could be dealt with in time, of course, but she at least did not wish to be distracted by the lesser sins more common in such isolated places. Regardless, she had a goal and a path towards it. That was enough for Anna to be content with.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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#, as written by Tempest
William loved people, well, he loved to observe and watch people. Over the years he had discovered that people tended to see him as less of a threat and more of a novelty because of his style of dress and accent. On more than a few occasions he had made use of peoples preconceived impressions to catch them woefully off guard.

Now, as they stood in the sweltering heat of the Sheriffs office, he studied the young man. His speech and movements clearly spoke volumes about how nervous he was, but that was to be expected. He seemed genuinely confused and worried about what was happening to his small town, or he was one hell of an actor.

The explanations of the attacks was clear and concise, the Sheriff not once referring to notes or struggling to remember details, an impressive feat. William at once chalked him up to being intelligent and quite capable of cunning and malice if his thoughts could be turned from the path of law enforcement. It would do well to see who tried to make contact with him over the next few days. The stories he told however made little sense, if he heard right, no one had been scalped. It might be an Indian banding trying to mislead the local authorities but the scalping business was a big part of their raids and how the hierarchy within the tribes was determined. The more scalps, the more renowned you were. However, if Harrison saw nothing strange it in, he wasn't going to point it out. The man knew more about the actions, traditions, etc, of the local population than William could probably learn in a lifetime.

Horatio at last decided on some course of action and urged Harrison to go with the Sheriff to the Native encampment. An obvious choice. William would of course rely on his own skills and he stepped forward, speaking in the sharp clipped accent of the old country.

"I vill remain here, in town to question ze the locals." Despite his accent, his english was more akin to the formal speak of the Canadian territories to the north than the American butchery of the language. He was at all times precise. It was only proper. He nodded to Horatio and then returned to the street, the breeze welcome on his face as he stood under the over hanging roof, boots loud on the rickety wooden deck.

He found himself looking over a tiny town, the few inhabitants bustling by in the street glancing at him without trying to make it obvious, and what did they see? A man who stood nearly six feet tall, clad in a tailored grey suit and expensive riding European boots, a salt and pepper beard with matching well groomed hair that frame clever grey eyes. The only American thing about him is the massive Peace Maker at his waist. He might as well be from another world.

Two steps down and his boots began to send up little puffs of dust as he walked across the street towards the saloon, smiling at those brave enough to meet his gaze. He detected relief in their returned looks, glad that at, here at least, was one Dog who did not consider them nothing more than targets.

William stopped for a moment at the door to the saloon, taking a final gaze around the streets. Here and there faces quickly vanish behind curtains in house windows and even children seem tense. A pit of vipers indeed.

Throwing the swinging doors open he strode into the room to find it empty save for the bar tender who, turning to greet his customer, nearly dropped the perpetually dirty mug all such men seemed to be cleaning.

"Good afternoon s-s-sir..." The stutter did not seemed forced and William smiled to allay the mans fears.

"Good afternoon sir. A beer if you please." Said William as he leaned on the bar, glancing about the empty room one more time. "Business ees slow, yes?"

The bar tender nodded as he drew a pint from one of the taps on the counter. "Yes sir. Been right awful since them injuns started running wild."

"Ze are Indians?" William asked, thanking the man as the beer was passed over. "What makes you say zis?

"The Sheriff said as much 'an he ought to know, being a law man and all."

William sometimes forgot just how ignorant the common American citizen could be, especially when it came to law enforcement and he nodded slightly. "Perhaps zis ees true. Vat have you heard hear?" He tapped the bar counter with a single finger, the sound loud in the silence of the room.

"Well..." The bard tender leaned in slightly. "Ah did hear a coupla rumours..."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Horatio gave the Native man an even nod. "Of course, you can talk to the blind kid, Harrison. I bet he'd take more to you than any of us. I'm not sure if a traumatized kid can offer us much to go off of, in the ranch attacks, but it's better than nothing, I suppose."

Then William stood up and announced his intentions to stay in town with Anna to question the locals. The German man soon left them, likely to begin his quest. Horatio stood up himself, stretching slightly. He looked over to the Pup and nodded at the young man.

"Looks like you're with me, Pup. Go on and saddle up; I want to get to that trail as soon as possible." he said simply. He left the Sheriff's office a moment later, shortly followed by the other Dogs and the Sheriff. Knight, who had been resting on the small porch leading into the office proper, perked up at Horatio's exit and made his way over to his master. Horatio smiled slightly and reached down to pet the dog, glad to have him around. Knight was a good hound, and always managed to sooth him with his presence.

Horatio turned over to Anna, and spoke to her before she could leave. "I don't want Knight getting hurt, in case the Pup and I end up getting attacked by those bandits near the Red Road Trail. So I'll be leaving him here in town, with you. He shouldn't be too much of a bother, I promise. Just take good care of him while I'm gone, Anna. And..."

Horatio paused, looking around briefly, to make sure the others weren't listening. He leaned in toward the young woman, and whispered to her, "And...it's good to see you again, Anna. It's....been awhile. It makes me proud to see you as a Dog, and I'm glad that I have the chance to work with you. Good luck out here, Anna. This is gonna be a hell of a job, I can tell already. Godspeed."

Horatio inclined his head toward his former apprentice, and turned around and walked back over to his hitched horse. He looked over at the Pup, who was already on his saddle.

"You ready, Pup?" he inquired, just to be sure. He didn't want to go anywhere with him unless he knew that the Pup was completely ready for whatever may happen out there on the Trail.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Anna stood up with William to leave, pausing at the doorway only when she heard Horatio speak once more. She saw the sidelong look he gave her and waited while Gideon moved towards the horses.

She smiled faintly as Horatio spoke to her. Someone who knew her like he did would know that was as expressive as she was likely to be, especially in regards to sentiment. "It's good to see you too, Uncle. Be careful out there, we both know these are no band of petty robbers. Godspeed." Anna nodded her head in return and that was that. Which suited her fine. It was good to work with Horatio, of course, but there was work to be done. Horatio certainly understood that and he and the Pup were galloping off barely a moment later.

Whistling to Knight, she gestured for him to follow and made her way to the saloon when she saw the German's gaudy suit swishing through the doorway. Anna went in after him, quickly surveying the saloon and it's inhabitants before taking the seat next to him and nodding politely to the bartender. William had apparently already began to question the bartender, which was good. He was only the first to be questioned, there was still the mayor and the archdeon and possibly a dozen other prominent citizens to start with. Anna remained silent for now, fixing a coldly analytic gaze on the bartender. Hopefully that would give him some encouragement to be truthful to the German's seemingly friendly questions.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Gideon stood by as one by one, the Dogs assigned themselves to the tasks that would best suit their strengths. One by one, until only he and Horatio were left. Great. While all of the decisions made sense, Gideon wasn't the most pleased by the way things fell out. He'd have preferred to work with Anna, though being paired with the German wouldn't have been too bad. Anna was the nearest of an age with him, and William seemed to be a good enough man. Beyond that, they were surely going to be inside, and out from under the god-forsaken sun, if not entirely out of the heat. What he wouldn't give for a pint right about now, or a few shots of whiskey. Instead, he was going to end up not only in the sun, but back in the saddle. His thighs were already sore. By tonight he was sure they'd be killing him.

He wasn't going to complain though. Dogs don't complain about their duty, and he knew he was in for work under the hot sun and long hours in the saddle when he signed up. It wouldn't really be repentance if you enjoyed it, now would it? The one thing that did bother him was the automatic moniker of 'Pup'. He was not a Puppy anymore. He had graduated from the academy, same as each of them, and was a full fledged Dog. A title which, in his mind, they should respect as much as the townspeople did. Gideon was wise enough not to complain about that either....yet.

Instead, he just nodded and walked back out the door. He took up the reins of his horse, and lead the creature over to a water trough. He meant to fill up his water skins from whatever pump or well the town sported too; he'd drank most of his water on the ride out this way, and who knew how long finding this trail would take. He didn't let the horse drink to excess, pulling it away after just a few moments, then climbed into the saddle. Horatio didn't keep him waiting long.

"Aye! Let's be through with it already." He called, his voice notably accented from the East and his Irish heritage, his speech more rapid than most of the drawl out in these parts.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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"Good," Horatio replied, giving Gideon an even nod. "Let's head out then."

The two Dogs soon rode their horses out of town, and toward the direction of the Red Road Trail. They traveled for well over half an hour, baking in the stark heat of the sun as they trudged on. Finally, they came upon the trail, and not long after that, they struck gold, so to speak. Off the side of the trail, the remains of a burnt and upturned wagon rested, a few wisps of smoke still coming out of the husk. Beside the husk, the bodies of three men laid, their deaths recent enough that they had decayed little in the desert heat. And near those bodies, rested the corpses of a pair of horses.

Horatio stopped his horse near the destroyed wagon, and clambered off.

"Looks like this was one of the wagons attacked on the trail. Fairly recently, too. If we're lucky, we might find a trail left behind by the raiders." Horatio idly commented, more for the Pup's benefit than his own.

He circled around the burnt-out husk, searching for anything left behind. It didn't surprise him at all when he found nothing significance in the burned remains. His attention then shifted over to the dead bodies. Had he the materials, he'd give these men a proper burial, but unfortunately, he didn't bring a shovel with him. For the moment, they would have to remain that way. The poor bastards.

Upon closer inspection of the bodies, it seemed that the men had all died from gunshots, indicated from the bullet-holes in their chests. But just because there weren't any arrows, didn't mean that Natives might be behind it. A lot of the Tribes these days had long abandoned using bows and arrows, and had adapted to rifles.

Still, these men weren't scalped. That was usually a calling-card of any Native attack...

"Something's not right here, Pup." Horatio stated, frowning at the scene before him. "These men still have their scalps. Natives usually don't leave those behind. And these raiders killed the horses, too. Why? Natives usually like to steal horses whenever they attack, not slaughter them. Something's not right here, but I'm not sure what it is."

Was this truly a Native attack, then? Might this be the work of simple bandits, then? But if that was so...how did this tie into the ranch attacks? Or were these two events related at all? The ranch attacks had started first, after all. Maybe it was pure coincidence that attacks had started up on the Trail shortly thereafter....

Hm. Well, either way, they wouldn't know for sure until Harrison went over to talk to the local Tribe. Until then, they'd have to make due without concrete answers.

Horatio glanced over at his partner, and idly wandered what he thought of the whole situation. Then he mused on whether or not this might be the first time the Pup saw a corpse. Hell of a first time to be introduced to death, that was for sure.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Gideon rode behind Horatio as they left town, the saddle at least a little more bearable since they had a moment to stretch their legs in the town. Unfortunately it was still just as hot, but nothing could be done about that. While they rode, Gideon thought over the details of the case that they had been given, trying to force the pieces together into something of a clear picture. He kept his thoughts to himself; Horatio didn't seem like the talkative type, and Gideon was well aware of the man's vastly superior experience. Gideon doubted he would think of anything the man hadn't already considered.

In the end, they did not need to ride far in order to reach the trail and the scene of trouble. Gideon saw the smoke slowly curling up into the air before they came upon the wagon itself, the air smelling of death. He pulled up a length of the thin scarf he wore to keep the sun off his neck up over his nose and mouth, leaving just his eyes to show beneath the brim of his hat. It took only a single look at the bodies to drive home the seriousness of the matter they were dealing with. Gideon had seen dead men before, but it was hardly a sight he had grown comfortable with.

Gideon turned his eyes away from the wagon, instead drawing his pistol and scanning the landscape around them. Whoever had done this could still be here, and he didn't plan on ending with his bones baking in the sun in some godforsaken backwater. "Oh yeah?" Gideon called over his shoulder to Horatio while the man continued to investigate. "Wouldn't bandits steal the horses too? That's just a waste." Gideon imagined horseflesh was a very easily moved commodity out here. Firstly, it could actually move, and help to carry other loot taken for a faster escape. And unlike gold, horses had a practical use anyone could appreciate, and most could afford. "Guess they're not trying to make a profit. Seems to me like somebody's got a vendetta." He mused, his voice slightly muffled behind the cloth.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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"A vendetta seems unlikely to me." Horatio disagreed, looking over the scene once more. "These raiders have been attacking more than one wagon across this trail, and they only attack once a week. So unless someone just absolutely hates everyone coming across this trail on a specific day of the week, that seems unlikely."

Horatio weighed the possibilities, considering all possible options. This was a tricky one, for sure....and how did it connect to the attacks on the ranches? At least the children survived in those attacks; here, not so much. Well...hm. It was always possible a child had been with at least one of these caravans, and had been taken away. But...not every merchant or passerby traveled the land with their children. And this business at the Trail seemed....different, from the attacks on the ranches. It seemed much more...disorderly, and random.

So were these two events connected? It was truly hard to tell at this point. Another reason to seek out the local Native Tribe ASAP.

Horatio continued to eye the wreckage, and after a moment of thorough searching, he detected a trail. The remnants of hoof prints seemed to circle around the wagon, before breaking off and heading off toward the east. Horatio eyed the possible trail as it vanished into the horizon.

"Hm. I think we might have ourselves a trail here leading to the raiders. Don't think we should do this one alone, though. There's two of us and who knows how many raiders waiting at wherever they're camped out. It'd be best to smoke them out with the entire Pack together. Maybe get the Sheriff and a posse involved, too." Horatio decided, feeling that was the safer of options.

They might lose the trail in the intervening time, perhaps, but five Dogs plus some of the locals against a group of raiders seemed much better odds than just him and the Pup alone.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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"Maybe they just hate everyone..." Gideon continued to muse, though he wasn't being entirely serious. He had faith in the experience of the other Dogs that they would see the mystery solved, and as such, didn't feel entirely obligated to be the one to put the pieces together. He was just here to see how putting them together was done. Horatio's words did spark a thought for the young man, however.

"Hey Horatio, how many towns are within a two or three day ride from here? Are any of them big, with a train station or something?" It could be a false lead, but if the trail had only been getting sacked about once a week, maybe it was because the people had to ride two or three days to reach their hideout, and then two or three days to return. It might seem like a pretty big waste of time and energy, but so long a ride would certainly make tracking down the outlaws more difficult. Gideon was still considering such things when the old man seemed to have found a trail. He turned around, going over to see for himself.

"Really? Where? I don't...it's all just a bunch of dirt." He complained. Being born and raised to the city, he had no experience with tracking. The stone streets didn't give to footprints unless someone had paint or blood on their shoe. He hadn't grown up hunting like many of the lads here in the West might. As for riding back to gather the others, it seemed like a good enough idea. Gideon might have accepted the teachings of the Faith, but he didn't believe that his Faith would stop a bullet as some Dogs did. Those who were extremely zealous would just trust the Lord to preserve them. Gideon figured He preserved those who used good judgement rather than those who tested his power. Unfortunately, that would mean they'd have to ride back into town, and then back out this way yet again.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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"No, no towns near here that I know of." Horatio replied, shaking his head. "And the trail's right here, Pup. It's faint, but it's there."

Of course, he wasn't that surprised that Gideon couldn't see it. It took an experienced eye to pick out a trail among all this dirt and dust.

"Come on, I think we're through here. Best go back to town and touch base with the others. Once we pool all our information together, I'm sure we can come up with our next course of action." Horatio declared, as he made his way back over to his horse. He saddled up on the beast of burden, and urged it forward, getting back up on the trail.

Their find wasn't much here, but that wasn't too much of a surprise. Still, they had a trail to follow now. It'd be a simple matter of rounding up the other Dogs, maybe the Sheriff and a posse, too. Once they had some good numbers on their side, they'd be able to smoke out and obliterate the raiders plaguing the Red Road Trail. And, perhaps, wipe out the local tribe of Natives too, while they were at it. If it came to that, at least.

Horatio still had his doubts about Native involvement, but he'd let Harrison be the final judge of that. Only he could find out for sure if his people were involved in the ranch and trail attacks.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod

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Gideon rolled his eyes at being called 'Pup'. Granted, it might be his first pack after winning his spurs, so to speak, but he was still a full fledged Dog. He doubted anything he said would make the old man drop the moniker. Especially when he couldn't even discern the raider's trail from the dirt. Gideon finally shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm right behind you Pops." He spoke, his Irish accented words coming quicker than most people's this far west. As much as Gideon hated the thought of riding back to town only to ride back this way again, it might mean a welcome respite from the day's work. His body was sore from so much time spent in the saddle. Maybe the other Dogs would be busy following their own leads, and by the time a posse was put together, they might put it off until tomorrow. Spending some time in the shade and out of the saddle would do Gideon some good...but he wasn't going to get his hopes too high on such a thing happening. The longer unraveling this mystery took, the more likely another ranch or wagon would be hit. People's lives were at stake. Gideon could suffer some discomfort to himself when weighed against such stakes.

He nudged his horse with his heels, guiding the animal around and back down the trail from whence they came. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gideon wasn't very nervous at the prospects of a shootout with raiders. Young as he was, his mind rejected the notion that he might be hurt, or even killed.