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Charles Carver

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

0 · 968 views · located in Dogs in God's Vineyard

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

Description

Charles Carver

Image


Age: 44
Gender:Male
Ethnicity/Race: White
Level of Faith: Mostly Faithful. Charles, despite his recent conversion to the Faith, is too practical and world-weary to have the blind idealism of someone recently saved by God and Prophet. He’s more concerned about getting out and helping people than finer details of spreading the Word of the Prophet. His interest is less in salvation and prophets and more in the message of helping others.
Years of Service: At around a year of service, Charles is still considered a Pup, much to his chagrin given his age and experience. Despite his experience in the saddle, the fight, and the world, he’s still fairly new to the Faith.
Weapons/Equipment:Charles keeps a spare revolver in his saddle and on his belt is an expertly crafted cavalry saber that he’s kept from his days in the Confederate army. A pair of knives are usually hidden in his coat and the saddlebags of his steed hold the usual array of supplies needed for the road.

Personality

Charles seems a stark contrast to any dour and duty-minded Dog, with an rakish grin that tends to make young women blush and old fathers scowl. He’s spent a good amount of his life indulging in assorted vices, and while he’s mellowed somewhat with age and education in the Faith, he has yet to give up whiskey and tobacco in the claim that the Lord will tolerate his followers taking some pleasure in the life they were given. He’s still prone to a temper, though nowadays its more likely to be in the defense of someone else rather than any slight to himself. His faith is a simple desire to help others, in hope that he might also find some manner of peace for himself after all of the conflict he has witnessed. Despite his easygoing exterior, the troubles of his past are still a vivid memory that continues to burden him.

History

The third son of a rich merchant in Richmond, Charles had little expectation of ever making an honest day’s work, much less any genuine struggle. However, his idle life of drinking, gambling, and other gentlemanly pursuits was interrupted by the outbreak of the War Between the States. With a sharp wit and sharper temper, Charles felt that war would be little different from the occasional drunken brawl. And as a son of Virginia, Charles enlisted to protect his homeland and embark on a grand adventure. Fortunately, his father was able to secure officer commissions for his sons even while his trade business floundered against the Union blockade. And fortunately for Charles, previous experience in riding and practicing with a sword gave him the slightest advantage necessary to survive in the battlefield. Alas, his brothers were not so fortunate and Charles quickly learned that war was not grand in any way.

Charles found himself back in a home celebrating a grand victory over the Union and expressing the triumph of Southern values, yet he was unable to enjoy the vanities and distractions he had loved as a reckless youth. Despite only a few years passing since he left home, he felt he had aged immensely. While everyone said that the Confederacy had secured its vital independance, he felt that his brothers and countless others had died for little. Unable to relate to his family or fellows in Richmond society, he fled west.

Work was easily found along the railroads gradually reaching towards the west and the railroad companies had every need for a man comfortable in the saddle and in violence. Charles worked as a bruiser for the railroad for several years, fending off Native raids and keeping unruly workers in line, his pay being tossed away on alcohol and women as soon as he’d received it. Eventually, he noticed a missionary preaching in the railroad camp, despised by nearly all for representing the Faith rather than the old denominations. The aging missionary had been beaten on more than one occasion, but he still continued to preach.

After one more beating that Charles happened intercede in, he and the old preacher spoke at length, and Charles learned of the Faithian lands to the west. The preacher promised him some manner of peace if he headed west to seek out a new life in the Faith. Impressed by the missionary’s willingness to suffer for his beliefs, he decided to follow that advice.

During his journey to the Faithian territory, he happened upon the ranch of a retired Dog, who was kind enough to offer him shelter and food for the night. During their conversations, Charles learned of the Watchdogs, and the notion that his violent skills might be able to be used to do the good work of the Lord. Heartened by this knowledge, he went to New Life to join the Dogs. Although he has struggled at times to rein in his vices, cynicism, and occasional lackadaisical attitude, his experience, straightforward honesty, and simple desire to help showed his promise as a Dog.

Goals

Charles has lived day by day, with little regard for planning the future, for his entire life, either out of a carefree disregard or a lack of knowledge as to whether or not he’d live to see the next day. Serving as a Dog has given him a clearer focus on where his life is going, even if it is only a simple task of continuing to do good work in the service of his fellow man. However, old habits still remain and he’s yet to consider any future further than his current service.

Likes

  • Women
  • Whiskey
  • Tobacco
  • Horses
  • Cards

Dislikes

  • Politicians
  • Rich folk
  • Natives
  • Cannons
  • Mud

So begins...

Charles Carver's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Episode 2: The Shape of Things to Come


A week came and passed after Anna and Horatio completed their mission at Red Road. The duo were given time to rest and relax in New Life after the mission's end, and to give time for their two other teammates to arrive at New Life to formally form their Pack. Originally, Anna and Horatio would have waited another week at New Life while their new Pack companions came to the Faith's capital, but there hadn't been any nearby respondents available when the telegram from Red Road came, and so Anna and Horatio had been sent to take care of things. It was impromptu and rushed, but in the eyes of the Pack Leaders, things had gone over rather well.

Four days into their wait at New Life, however, and things changed again. New orders came in from the Pack Leaders; they were to leave New Life with all due haste, and ride their way over to the city of Brunsbeck. A modest city, roughly the size of Jefferson City...otherwise unremarkable, except for the fact that it was a waypoint for the Transcontinental Railroad. The city itself was two days away from New Life on horseback, and so it took Anna and Horatio two days to get to their destination.

Their new Pack-mates would meet them there at the train station in Brunsbeck, and once they assembled at the station, they were to wait until four special persons arrived from the train. They were given very little information on who these four people were...all they knew for certain was that they were to be escorted back to New Life (and on horseback, instead of simply taking the train to the city), and that their safety was of paramount importance. These four persons were to be protected as if they were Holy Family members themselves, or so the Pack Leaders had stressed in their orders. No harm was to come to them whatsoever.

And so, Anna and Horatio rode to Brunsbeck, new orders in hand, to meet both the people they were to escort, and their two new Pack members.

It was midday when the duo rode into town, and soon enough they made their way to the station. They hitched their horses, and walked into the station. The VIPS they were to protect hadn't yet shown up, but it seemed that their fellow Pack-mates had, for when Anna and Horatio came to the station, they found Ira Murphy and Charles Carver waiting for them.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Horatio enjoyed the brief respite he and Anna had at New Life, after their mission in Red Road ended. The two had given their report to the Pack Leaders (or just one Pack Leader, at the time), and Anna had given her own suspicions of the events there, and Horatio was satisfied that the higher ups of the Dogs would be looking into the matter now. They were back on the job now, however, and after a two day ride...he and Anna had arrived at the town of Brunsbeck, and were making their way to the train station now.

Horatio, for his part, was curious about both the people they were supposed to protect, and their two new Pack-Mates. He'd served with Ira Murphy before, though that had been almost thirty years ago, to be honest, and they hadn't really kept in touch afterward. If anything, he and Ira hadn't exactly parted on the....best of terms, so he wasn't quite sure what to expect from her. As for this Charles Carver fellow...the name sounded vaguely familiar, but otherwise Horatio didn't know the man. He knew that Charles was still a Pup, having been a Dog for less than a year, but other than that he knew very little about the man.

Either way, he was somewhat hopeful about his new partners. Hopefully he and Anna would get along with them well enough, and work together as an efficient Pack. Especially toward this very important mission. Horatio didn't quite know what was going on here, but he had the feeling that this was very important. And the fact that they were going to escort these people on horseback, instead of simply riding the train with them to New Life...whoever these people were, he had a feeling that their visit to the lands of the Faithful was being kept quiet and secret. Why else would they need to take the long way back to New Life, and be given so very little information about the four men they were to protect?

That thought in mind, the older Dog walked into the train station with Anna. Right away, he spotted their two new teammates, vaguely recognizing Ira herself, though the telltale patch on their coats gave away their identity as Dogs. Horatio walked right over to his new teammates, Anna in tow, as he introduced himself.

"Name's Horatio, but I'm sure you already knew that." he proclaimed, tipping his hat slightly to the two. He looked over at Ira, a bit uncertain about how she'd treat him. Their last encounter had been...stressful, so he wasn't quite sure what to expect from her. "Pleased to see the both of you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Anna would have enjoyed her time off if she had simply willed herself to relax. Normally she would have appreciated the warm food and a solid roof over her head for a time, even as much as she enjoyed being out on the frontier. But her thoughts continued to dwell on the massacres, the children, and Azrael. She knew that the matter was settled, at least for her, now that it was in the hands of the Pack Leaders. It burned at her to think that other Dogs would be assigned to handle any dark forces at work in New Life, but it was not her place to question their wisdom.

That was what she kept telling herself. In the end, Anna was thankful for a new assignment so suddenly. It was something to focus her mind on. Or it would be, if they had been told anything of what they were to do once they reached Brunsbeck. After the mystery and conspiracy at Red Road, the secrecy left an ill feeling in Anna's gut. But it was still not her place to question. And escorting four people on a two day ride to New Life was hardly an arduous task. Banditry so close to New Life was rare and it surely seemed that the necessity of the Dogs' presence, much less the secrecy of their charges, was nothing more than precaution.

But after the harrowing work at Red Road, having two additional Dogs seemed almost like a luxury. She knew of Ira Murphy only by reputation, morbid that it was. On one hand, Anna knew that any Dog, much less a woman, who had preserved in her duty and lived for so long deserved respect. But the moniker that had been whispered alongside her name did not sit well with Anna. Violence was a tool of the Dogs, to be sure, necessary in the face of unforgiving cruelty and greed that laid in the hearts of many men, but it was something to be done precisely, and to rid the world of danger. Pyres for every petty sinner was the realm of the debased religious spats of old Europe, that the Faith was supposed to have left behind. An experienced Dog like Murphy would be useful, to be sure, but Anna could only hope that experienced did not lead the woman to clash with Horatio's lead. As for the other, Anna had not heard of his name, but there were always new Dogs coming out of New Life. She was confidant that he would be competent and faithful, at the very least.

Anna glanced briefly around the town as she and Horatio arrived, thankful there was no sheriff rushing to tell them of some ill news. A larger city like Brunsbeck had more than enough lawmen to handle the simple problems, thankfully, and thus the Dogs could focus on the duties they had been given by the Pack Leaders. She followed Horatio to the train station, easily recognizing the two Dogs waiting for them. They certainly stood out, even without the coats that marked them as Dogs, Murphy with her eyepatch and Carver with a sword of all things on his belt. She followed Horatio's lead, tipping her hat politely. "Anna Ward. Have our charges arrived yet?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Ira Murphy was a woman of unique skills and perspective. She was a rare breed of Watchdog: someone who had served since the near beginning of the Order, and had persevered throughout the proceeding decades. She'd survived gunshot wounds, burns, more than one broken bone, and even the horrendous adventure that had left her with only one working eye. Her body was a temple to all the fights and battles she'd won and survived, and she was more than proud of her over thirty years of experience.

If she had one flaw however, it would be...missions like these. Give her a clear directive and a gun, and Ira was more than capable of fulfilling her mission. She was good at destroying the Wicked for their sinful deeds, and converting sinners and non-believers to the One True Faith. She could shoot better than any man, and after decades of experience, had developed a keen eye for strategy. It was missions like this, however...

She would do her duty as commanded, of course. Her loyalty to the Church was absolute, and she would never refuse an order given by the Pack Leaders. And it wasn't like she was bad at simple missions like this. However, Ira did not...take pleasure in these sorts of tasks. Indeed...while she'd never admit it aloud, she almost felt a little insulted, being sent as someone's babysitter. She would protect these four men with her life, but surely, someone more...qualified for these tasks could have been sent in her stead? Ira was far more suited toward rooting out the wicked souls of the Deseret, than escorting for persons of unknown origin to New Life.

Still...an order was an order, and here Ira was, in the town of Brunsbeck, waiting for their charges to show up on the train. She'd been at the station itself for all of five minutes, when a new Dog showed up; Charles Carver, if she recalled. Of him...Ira knew nothing of, really. The fellow hadn't been a Dog for long; indeed, he was still a Pup. Normally, Ira would feel insulted at being saddled with a Pup...she could spend her time far better than teaching some green pup the ropes....but, Carver looked like a decent enough fellow. He looked like he could take someone in a fair fight, plus he had that intriguing sword on his belt, which raised his status in Ira's eyes. Not everyone could wield a sword, for they were weapons not to be taken lightly. Anyone could use a gun, but one had to be trained to properly use a sword. Presuming Carver knew how to use the thing...then the Pup promised to be an adequate Pack-Mate.

Ira exchanged a quick, pleasant greeting with Carver, noting his presence. She remained silent afterward though, making no effort to engage in conversation. She would talk fully when the rest of the Pack assembled. And lo and behold...here came the cavalry. Not ten minutes after Carver arrived, so did their two other teammates, Anna Ward and Horatio Morale.

Ira knew very little of Anna, aside from the fact that she was the daughter of her old Pack-Mate, Harold Ward. From what she heard, Anna had more experience...almost ten years under her belt, but other than that she knew very little of her fellow female teammate. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. Unless one made a name for themselves during their duty, not all Dogs would ultimately know of each other, or hear of each other. It wasn't like the Dogs were a small social club, where everybody knew everybody. And it wasn't like she'd kept up all that much with Harold, after their Pack split.

And as for Horatio...it had been almost thirty years since Ira had served in a Pack with him. And this time around, the Runt of the Litter was their Alpha, no less. The idea amused Ira quite a bit, given he'd been a mere Pup back when she'd known him. Barely a year's service under his belt when they were placed into a Pack together. The two of them, Adella, James, and Isaac. That almost seemed like...a lifetime ago. Back before she'd lost her eye, and....

....

Well, some things were best left dead and buried in the past. Despite the fact they'd parted on...less than wonderful terms, Ira was willing to give her old Pack-Mate a chance. Thirty years was a long time, after all, and a person could change drastically in that period of time. Perhaps all these years had given the green Pup she'd once known the wisdom and experience to be an Alpha and lead a Pack.

Horatio and Anna soon introduced themselves, and Ira decided to do so in kind. "Ira Murphy. And no. The Pup and I have been here for a little while now, but the train hasn't shown up yet. It's almost noon, however...and it's bound to show up soon. Presumably, our charges will arrive then."

Her introduction out of the way, Ira fully focused on Horatio. She tilted her head, carefully considering her words. What did one say to a person she hadn't seen in almost thirty years? "Horatio...my, but the years haven't been kind to you. Your face looks like a donkey's arse...but of course, it was much the same when we first met."

She kept a cool, solid expression on her face for a moment, before her lips quivered into a smirk. Ira wasn't one to fool around and make jokes, but it felt almost...appropriate to say. Besides, she was amused to see how the old Pup would react to that. He'd been fairly easy to rile up, as a young man.

That said, Ira focused her attention on Anna next, eyeing the younger woman curiously. "And you...so, this is the daughter of Isaac Ward? My, but you are your father's daughter. It surprises me little that his child became a Dog herself."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Charles Carver rode into Brunsbeck with his distinctive Watchdog's coat folded over the back of his saddle, content to appear as just another traveler passing through the town. He had never cared for the hushed voices and wide eyed stares the townsfolk would have when he had rode into other towns with a Pack, all stern promises of righteous justice and turning out sins into the light. The effect had its uses, of course, but Charles had found he could learn just as much from a night in the local saloon, if the patrons had yet to learn who he was. And even when that would not be necessary, he enjoyed the brief moment of anonymity. He had only been a Dog for nearly over a year now and he did not want to forget that for far longer he had been just another anonymous drifter and sinner.

But he knew he could only enjoy the moment of peace briefly, as he hitched his horse to a post near the train station and pulled on the coat. As strange as the assignment was with its secrecy compared to the usual work of rooting out banditry or corruption, Charles trusted that the Pack Leaders had sent them all to do some manner of good here. Not that he was in a position to debate, while he was still the Pup of the Pack, regardless of his age and ability. And even then, he had to admit that the two veteran Dogs in the Pack likely outclassed even him with their experience, and even the other woman would surely be able to hold her own more than well enough if she had a several years of the Lord's work under her belt.

After checking the revolver and sword on his belt, he caught sight of Ira Murphy quickly enough as he walked through the station. It wasn't as if there were many women in the West with eye patches and revolvers. Charles nodded politely to her as he introduced himself, content to be as brief as she had. He had worked with more than one taciturn Dog with no tolerance for idle talk in the past, and he certainly wasn't about to press anyone with a moniker of 'the Merciless'. Fortunately, he had not waited long before the last two Dogs arrived. He tipped his hat to both of them, unable to help but grin amicably to the young woman. "Charles Carver. Look forward to working with y'all."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Horatio nodded at both Charles and Ira as they formally introduced themselves. He was a bit surprised, however, when Ira spoke further...making, of all things, a quip about his looks. The older Alpha looked over at the one-eyed woman, clearly surprised to hear her make such a jest. He didn't feel offended in the slightest though, of course; if anything, Ira's brief moment of mirth made him feel...relieved. Despite the way they parted, it seemed that Ira was willing to let what had happened then stay in the past.

"You're one to speak, Ira. You're the only one here who's missing a body part, after all." Horatio quipped in turn, smirking a little himself. Ira gave a little chuckle in return, apparently amused by what he said.

Pleasantries, such as they were, exchanged, Horatio looked over at Anna next. She probably had a few questions that needed answering. "We've met before, as I'm sure you've gathered. Your father and I served in the same Pack with Ira when we were young. Back before his...injury."

"Isaac Ward was one of the bravest...and suicidal...men I've ever known." Ira chimed up at this, giving Anna a small smile. "He was always willing to do whatever it took to make sure we all made it out alive, even when it meant risking his own life. He was a good man to work alongside."

Horatio nodded at that, more or less agreeing with Ira's assessment there. Isaac had been a good man to fight alongside; it was a damn shame he'd been forced to retire so early. But, then again, Anna may well not have been born if Isaac hadn't gotten that leg wound, and forced to recover at a hospital in New Life. If there was one good thing to come out of that mess of a last mission...it was that it eventually led to Anna being born, and joining the Dogs when she became an adult.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Anna looked between Horatio and Ira, her brow furrowing as she watched them interact. It wasn't as if she was expecting trouble, once she saw the look on Horatio's face shift from mild surprise to humor just as sharp as Ira's, but she had the faint notion that Ira was gauging Horatio's response rather than joking for the sake of it.

Looking over Ira for a brief moment, Anna refrained from speaking the first thought that came to her. Father never spoke of you. But there could have been a number of reasons for that. He had served with dozens of Watchdogs over a career that had spanned a bit over a decade and he could not have been as close to all of them as he was to Horatio. Or he had simply left a strong impression on Ira, but she had not to him. And yet, her reputation seemed reason enough for one to remember her. But ultimately the details of years long past were not relevant when there was work to be done here and now.

"He would appreciate the praise, I am sure." Anna smiled politely to Ira in return, then nodded briefly to Charles without any smile at all in return to his warm grin. She shifted about restlessly, glancing out across the station for any sight of the charges that would surely be looking for the Pack soon.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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The Pack did not have to wait much longer for their charges to arrive. Ten minutes later the train moved into the station, and once it stopped, its passengers departed. The first few people that came off the train were inconsequential, and obviously not their charges, for they strode past the Dogs without a second glance. Soon enough though, four men soon departed from the train, and stopped in front of the Dogs.

Two of the men were getting on in the years. One was completely bald, and sported a graying beard. He was dressed in rather formal attire, giving off the air that he was someone vaguely important. The eldest men in the group, who at a glance appeared to be in his late sixties at least, had an equally graying beard (though it was smaller than his well-dressed companion), whitening hair, eye-glasses, and curiously enough...had the Holy Bible clutched in one hand.

The other two men were far younger, with one man looking around Carver's age, and the other younger than any of the men or Dogs present, perhaps thirty years old at best. Like his other two companions, the man closer to Carver's age had a rather full beard, though he was dressed far more casually, and seemed to be eyeing the Dogs rather curiously. And the youngest of them all had a fair complexion, with a simple moustache instead of a beard...but most importantly, he was armed. Unlike his three companions, the youngest man had a pistol on his belt, and unlike the other three, he carried himself like a soldier. The younger man studying the Dogs curiously, hand twitching near his pistol in the event he'd need it.

"I presume you will be our guides into New Life?" the man closer to Carver's age spoke, seemingly the leader of the four-man group. Upon Horatio's nod, he seemed to visibly relax, more or less taking their word for it.

"Good. I am Robert Todd Lincoln, leader of this...delegation." Robert introduced, giving the group a formal little nod. Horatio felt his brain prickle a little at that....the name sounding vaguely familiar to him, for some reason.

"I am...George Edmunds, at yours service." the second eldest of the delegation proclaimed. Again, that name seemed to register with Horatio as well, but he wasn't sure why.

"John Massey." the eldest of the delegation introduced giving a polite little nod. Unlike the other two, his name registered nothing in Horatio; clearly, he'd never heard of him before, whoever he was.

The youngest of them tipped his hat to the group, giving Anna in particular a little wink. "Theodore Roosevelt, at your service! But my friends call me Teddy."

That name meant nothing to him either....still though, Horatio looked over at Robert Todd Lincoln and George Edmunds, wondering where he'd heard those names before.

And then, it clicked.

George Edmunds. Vice President of the United States. Assuming this was the same man....then the man who would succeed President Blaine, were he to die in office, was right in front of them. As for Robert...if Horatio wasn't mistaken, he was the son of the infamous Abraham Lincoln. The President who saw the Union torn asunder, and was unable to piece it back together once the South won the war.

"My compatriot is the Vice President of the United States, while I serve as the Secretary of War under President Blaine." Robert formally elaborated, filling in the others, if they hadn't caught on already. "My other compatriot...Theodore...is a personal friend of the President's, and here as our unofficial protector. As for Mister Massey..."

Massey interjected at this point, a small smile coming to his face. "I serve as a close personal friend and confidant of President Lee of the Confederate States of America. I'm here merely as an...observer, if you will."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Charles couldn't help but let out a low whistle after the men had introduced themselves. For the briefest of moments he smiled faintly, as if it were a joke. Two of the most powerful men in the Union and the personal friend of the Confederate president walk off of a station intending to ride to the heart of the Faith...and yet here they were. Charles was not one for politics in the slightest, it was not as if there was any newspapers on the railroad, or in many of the frontier towns, but even he could begin to see the staggering implications here.

He was wary of the northern politicians on principle, of course, but the fact that President Lee had sent a representative was an entirely different matter. It had been a long time since Charles considered himself a son of Virginia, but he still respected the name Lee. After all, they were all but the South's own Holy Family. And for all of Charles' objections to the callousness and finery of Richmond high society, he couldn't criticize the general-presidents of the Confederacy. Those men had seen blood and death, even if only from afar. And it was all but a certainty that no soldier of the South had ever doubted the love Robert E. Lee had for his men. Others may have used the war for their own ends, but Lee only did what was necessary and felt the pain of every man lost for it. Even if his nephew that now held the presidency was only half the man the senior Lee had been, he was surely still a good and honest soldier. Of course, Charles knew just as well that some of his teachers' lessons in the Faith, still quite fresh in his mind, condemned the South just as much as the North.

"Charles Carver." He murmured an introduction, suddenly feeling smaller in the presence of such men, and tipped his hat. "We'll be happy to get y'all to New Life safely."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Ira was not impressed by the credentials of the men before her, for their titles meant nothing to her. The authority of the Federal Government mattered little in the Faith; indeed, the Deseret practically governed itself, given how much the western territories had been ignored by the United States after the Southern War. As it was, Ira did not feel particularly impressed or awed by the men before her.

She did, however, catch the significance of their visit. And the idea unsettled her, certainly. She was not one to play politics, and she did not relish the idea of the King of Life negotiating with the decadent politicians of the East. No good would come of that; that was her automatic response, at least. It was no secret that the politicians of the US had a deep-seated mistrust and even downright hatred of the Faith...and despite whatever good will this party came on, they'd undoubtedly true to make the Faith compromise in its beliefs. That was the nature of Heathens like them....make the Faithful compromise their beliefs, in order to make them more 'accepted' to the Heathen and sinful populace...white-wash the tenants of the Faith, in a sense.

Letting these four men live would tear apart the very Faith itself. They would need to die, if the Deseret was to survive.

All of these thoughts transpired within Ira in the span of ten seconds, and her hands twitched a bit, as if she was about to pull out her revolvers. The self-control that Ira "The Merciless" Murphy did have, however, reared itself at this point.

....

Painful as it was to leave these Heathens alive....orders were orders, Ira begrudgingly noted. If the Pack Leaders demanded their safe escort to New Life, then she would complete this duty...even if she disagreed with it. And perhaps...she was too harsh in her assessment. The King of Life would not negotiate with these sinners if He did not have a plan. Surely King Julian had some sort of plan in motion to pacify these Eastern Devils, while still preserving the tenants of the Faith? Yes, surely, that must be the case. And if the Deseret were accepted more fully into the Union...that opened up greater chances to convert the ignorant masses of the East...

That train of thought quelled any sense of rebellion in Ira, as the female Dog finally gave a small nod. "Ira Murphy. I will...do my utmost best in ensuring your safety to the Heart of the Faith; you have my word."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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For the first time since Anna had glimpsed the faintest bit of the truth behind those massacres, the burning thoughts of Red Road were gone from her mind, and replaced by a thousand new questions as she looked at what very well could be the next pivotal moment for the Faith. Why else would the Vice President of the United States be here, or a representative of the Confederate president?

The urge to blurt out those questions almost felt tangible, until she slid her hand into a coat pocket and curled it into a fist to focus herself. The matter was so far beyond her, beyond even the Pack Leaders. These men would surely be meeting with the King of Life, and it was not her place to question.

And yet that raised the notion that the King of Life, or at the very least his closest advisers, had arranged a meeting with the politicians who were raised up to power only by the wealth of robber barons and slavers. What was there to be said to petty politicians of the imperialist and debaucherous nations to the East? And if there was something to be said, why take the long road by horse, rather than train? It was not as if anyone would expect banditry so close to New Life, even on the roads, but the train would have been all the more quicker and safer. But it was not her place to question.

For all her prided self-control, Anna’s eyes widened and she drew in a sharp breath. But she caught herself a moment later, quickly lowering her gaze and tipping her hat to the men. She glanced briefly to her companions, watching Charles' quiet shock and some bit of tension from Ira that she couldn't quite identify. But the brief look in her eye did little to set Anna at ease.

Anna then turned her attention back to the men, eyeing Roosevelt in particular and staring flatly at him. He was the one man who wasn’t any man of drastically consequential importance, and therefore she let herself smart briefly at the look at he had given her, little different from the one Carver gave moments ago. At least for all the grand implications of this meeting, it was clear some things never changed so easily.

“Anna Ward. Welcome to Deseret. We'll make for New Life as soon as you all are ready to ride.” Anna said calmly before she glanced briefly to Horatio, as if he had not been as bewildered as she was, even if his face did not show it any more than hers. She had an ill feeling that this would not be any simple ride to New Life.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Horatio stared back and forth between the quartet, a raised eyebrow being the only sign of surprise he showed. Of course, the older Dog was downright shocked at their presence...for the fact that these four men where here, raised numerous questions about their mission and what the Pack Leaders (or rather, the King of Life and his advisers, for it clearly went all the way to the top) were hoping to accomplish here.

But...well, should he be so surprised? Deep down, Horatio knew that sooner or later, things with the Federal Government would come to a head. It'd been an errant worry of many old Faithful for decades now, especially once the divide of slavery was no longer an issue in the United States. But considering how that issue had been settled...well, it was clear to see that the Government did not want another civil war on their hands. Thus...it seemed they were extending an olive branch, of sorts, to the King of Life. Letting him and the Faithful negotiate their way, peacefully, into the Union.

Or so Horatio believed; these thoughts raced into his mind fairly quickly, and given his lack of knowledge, his supposition might not be correct. Still...orders were orders, and Horatio knew he had to get these men to New Life. If anything...the mission had a sense of urgency, now. He had the distinct feeling that if anything at all happened to these four delegates, he and his Pack would have hell to pay.

"Horatio Morale. I lead this Pack." Horatio dutifully informed, nodding to the apparent leader of the delegation. Which...wasn't too surprising. The Secretary of War seemed a lot more important position than Vice President. They only seemed to be important whenever the President got sick and died in office, like William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor.

"Anna," Horatio spoke up a moment later, looking over at his protege. "Would you and Ira be so kind as to procure a carriage for our...charges?"

Considering the fact that they had only four horses between the group, they'd need to get a further mode of transportation for their esteemed guests, and Horatio felt they'd be better protected inside a proper carriage. They wouldn't even need to buy another two horses to hitch to the carriage, either; they could just use two from the four they had already. Two of them would ride alongside as escorts, another would act as the driver of the carriage, and the fourth one could stay in the carriage itself to look over their charges. It seemed a suitable enough plan for this arrangement, in Horatio's opinion.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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The thoughts buzzing around Anna's mind settled as Horatio spoke her name. There was too much to consider in all of the grand implications at hand, but none of that would matter until they reached New Life. Even a simple request was enough for Anna to focus on the task at hand. Everything rested on getting these men to New Life, which would be a straightforward task, in theory. She could see Horatio's plan easily enough, two of their horses to pull the stagecoach with two of them guarding their charges up close, and two as riders to scout ahead or prevent anyone from getting too close to the carriage.

"Of course." Anna nodded to Horatio, gesturing for Ira to follow as she went to retrieve her horse. A carriage would be simple enough to procure from the local stables, with a bit of luck. She glanced over her shoulder as she stepped out, watching Charles shifting his attention between eyeing the representatives with something between awe and caution and a careful watch of other townsfolk near the station, and Horatio with the subtle hint of surprise still lingering on his face. Drawing in a slow breath, Anna forced her focus on the task at hand as she rode back into the town. Surely they would be on their way and back in New Life in after a few short and uneventful days on the road, or at least that was what Anna briefly prayed for.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Ira followed after Anna, retrieving her own horse as well, similarly catching onto Horatio's plan. They'd done something similar, for a mission back when they'd been in their first Pack together. She rode alongside Anna, doing her best to focus on just getting the carriage itself...and not on the whirl-wind of thoughts that threatened to occupy her mind.

They found a place selling carriages in town, and one look at their dusters negotiated the Dogs a fair and cheap price for the wagon, Ira and Anna hitching their horses to the contraption as they rode it back to the train station. A bit slower going back of course, with the added weight of the stagecoach dragging down the horses.

"The final decision is up to our Alpha, of course..." Ira spoke up to Anna during the ride back, breaking the silence that had dwelled between them previously. "But I will volunteer to help steer the carriage itself. Someone with better eyes than mine own should ride ahead of the carriage."

It was a tactical and logical enough decision, in Ira's eyes. She considered herself a good shot, even after all these years...but she was not vain enough to overlook her flaws. A mission as...important as this needed all the bases covered, and the older female Dog felt it was best that someone with full visual capacity served as the group's scouts.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
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Anna eyed Ira on the ride back, as subtly as she could, knowing that the senior Dog's senses would be just as sharp as her own. With the brief distraction of the simple assignment turning her thoughts away from the representatives, Anna was able to focus on the other Dog while they rode back. It was a curious thing, that neither her father or Horatio had mentioned her before. It was not as if the bond the two of them shared would have been as strong with every single Dog they served with, of course, but Ira clearly remembered the two of them well. But now was not the time to pry. Perhaps there would be time during the ride, especially if it was an alternate to speaking at length with their charges.

She nodded idly to Ira as she spoke. "I am sure that will do fine. I can stay in the back of the carriage while Horatio and Charles ride ahead." The specific composition of the ride meant little to her, only because she trusted that every member of the Pack was well trained to work as a rider or guarding from the carriage. But she could certainly shoot with the rifle in her saddlebag as, even if it meant she would be left with the representatives for the duration of the trip back to New Life. Admittedly, part of her wanted to press them for details on why they had been summoned, what could possibly bring both the Union and the Confederacy to New Life, but it was still not her place to pry. Anna was left to continue wondering as they returned to the station.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Chapter 1: Abernathy's Folly

A week had come and gone since the events of Red Road, and much had changed during that time. Horatio had gotten a new lead on another of the bandits that had killed his family, and so Anna's family friend and mentor had left with great haste, promising to contact Anna as soon as possible. That had been a problem, considering that Anna and Horatio had received orders a few days ago to investigate the disappearance of two Dogs: one Justin Meyer, and Eliza Mayford. The two of them had been assigned to Horatio's Pack, but they had never arrived at Red Road, forcing the two of them to investigate on their own.

Now Anna knew why. Apparently, the two Dogs had gone missing in the city of Abernathy, about three hours ride away from Red Road itself. They had taken a train from New Life to get to the city, and while there were initial reports that they had reached Abernathy unharmed, everything after was uncertain. No word had been heard from either Dog since then, and now it was up to Anna to investigate the matter. And, while Horatio wouldn't be there to investigate with her, she wouldn't be alone.

With Horatio's departure, the higher ups at New Life had decided to assemble a new Pack to investigate the matter, giving Anna her first command. Two of her teammates she didn't know personally, but might know by reputation: Charles Carver and Sonia Redwood. And then there was an unexpected, but welcome, final addition to her team: Margaret Thorne. The two of them had joined the Watchdog Academy at the same time near eight years ago, and had become fast friends during their training and initiation. While they'd gone on to separate Packs afterward, they'd managed to keep in touch via letter over the years. And now, her friend would be joining in her new Pack.

It had been years since Anna had last seen Margaret. While it would be welcome to see an old friend, like it had been with Horatio, there was an underlying tragedy in Margaret's arrival. It wasn't often nearly an entire Pack was wiped out at once, so when that happened to Margaret, well, it passed through the grapevine. Anna could only imagine what she had gone through, losing her teammates all at once like that. Truly, it was an unfortunate tragedy.

At any rate, they all had their orders now. All four of them were in New Life, conveniently, once the Pack had been officially put together. Now Anna was just waiting at the train station of New Life: her teammates should show up at any moment. From there, they would board the train, and head to Abernathy. Lord knew what waited them there, but if they were lucky, perhaps they would find the missing Dogs alive and well. God willing, nothing unfortunate had happened to them.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Worry and a treacherous hint of doubt gnawed at Anna's heart. She waited under the awning over the train station's platform, slouched back against the wall, the brim of her hat tugged down as she stared intently at the ground. With her coat pulled up around her waist to hide her revolver, and her hat pulled down to hide part of her face, it was easy to go unnoticed, as just another vagabond of the West instead of the imposing Watchdog she expressed herself as, usually keeping her chin held high and daring anyone to comment on a woman so casually resting a hand upon her gun or whip.

But for the moment, Anna preferred to dwell on her own thoughts, taking the brief respite to indulge with a moment of brooding, for there was little else she could do. She had tried to move on from the bloodshed of Red Road, but there were too many questions, too many children whose fate remained unknown. But she was forced to admit the trail had gone cold and she could not simply charge eastwards on a whim, as much as it galled her to admit that her divine authority meant nothing in the corrupt East, even if she did have the slightest lead to follow. And she had her orders, orders from those who did have a divine authority that certainly superseded her own. She had written a detailed report and sent it with a courier to New Life, now the matter of Red Road was in their hands.

The disappearance of two other Dogs was certainly of an equal concern. There was no possibility of simple desertion, which meant they had been targeted. One Dog stumbling upon, if not being specifically hunted by, an old enemy was not impossible, but two missing Dogs suggested worse. It was certainly worth of a Pack's attention.

A Pack of her own. Part of her wished Horatio was still here instead. His own quest was just another worry, the thought of in riding off alone to return to his years long hunt. If it was anyone else, Anna might have tried to scold him away from it. But his duty to his murdered family was just as sacred as his oaths as a Dog. She only wished she could ride with him, if she didn't have her own duties here. It wasn't how Anna ever had imagine that she would come to lead a Pack, but it wasn't her place to question the Lord's will.

All she could do was look forward, and as Anna heard the sound of footsteps drawing near, she looked up to see the first of her Pack approach.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Heavy footsteps thumped against the platform as Charles approached, his broad build and sturdy boots certainly unable to keep him from any quiet approach, if he ever did have the foolish inclination to surprise a fellow Dog. He certainly couldn't blame a touch of jumpiness, when he himself flinched more often then he'd liked to admit at sudden noises on a dark night.

Charles peered at the two women as he approached, both young by his standards, each more than enough for him to have given them a double take in the past. It wasn't as if the women of Richmond wore trousers and carried revolvers, much less a black women. But he had grown wiser in his years, eventually, markedly so when it came to meeting the women of the Faith, and more so still among those that had joined the Dogs. And so he tipped his hat politely as he stepped up, refraining from grinning too widely in greeting. "Mornin', ladies." He drawled as his hand settled back to rest comfortably on the hilt of his old cavalry saber, the sword's sheath hidden under his longcoat, with his revolver on the opposite hip.

"Charles Carver. Honored to be workin' with you both." He said, before inclining his head politely. The last bits of his old ego smarted at the notion of being under the command of a woman his junior, but he stamped that torrid thought down. He had heard enough by reputation to give due respect to anyone who lived through the first few years as a Dog, much less the hardy women who grew up in the Faith, and recognized their calling as a Dog so early on. Charles had a feeling that in his aging body, it would be all he could do just to keep up with the two of them.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Not long after Charles made his introductions, Sonia Redwood sauntered up behind him. She'd make a striking figure, dressed in her old civil war uniform. The blue coloring was faded, the buttons were a mix-match of old and new, and different colored patches were sworn into the fabric where she'd ripped or torn it over the years. By all accounts, it wasn't technically her original uniform: she'd had it, and her other military jackets, tailored so many times over the years, with different things replaced or sown in, that there was likely very little of the original left. A certain parable about a wooden ship came to mind, in regards to her military jackets. But as far as Sonia was concerned, it was still her old uniform, even if a great majority of it was made up of new material.

By far, she was the one most peculiarly dressed in the whole group, and because of this, the older woman often had a lot of attention drawn to her. For her part, Sonia didn't mind this attention at all. More often than not, people who didn't know her assumed she was just wearing the uniform of a dead husband, brother, or father. She rarely corrected them of that notion, given how much time it'd take to explain the whole story.

Since she became a Dog, she'd taken to wearing her old uniform again. While she had mixed feelings of her time in the Union Army, it still had taught her most of the skills she'd used to thrive out here in the Deseret. At the very least, nowadays she was proud of the fact that she'd helped fight those rebel Southerners during the War itself. Sure, the South had won, but at least they'd paid for their unholy victory with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

"Mornin', Boss." Sonia tipped her hat over at Anna, before glancing over at Margaret and Charles. She took note of the cavalry sword at the man's side, as well as the accent he'd spoken with. "Sonia Redwood, reporting for duty. Do believe that's all of us, least we got assigned another member or somethin'."

It felt...odd, being a subordinate to a young woman two decades her junior. She was likely the oldest here, with only Carver being the closest to her own age. No doubt she was also one of the more experienced fighters here, between her time in the army, as sheriff, and now her last ten years as a Dog. Still, she didn't mind too much at being just a member of the Pack. At the very least, she would do well as the Second-in-Command for the Pack: a more informal role, than a serious rank. But her experience with the Watchdogs taught her that they often liked to pair up inexperienced or first-time leaders with at least one veteran member in their Pack, so that said veteran could help mold them into a true and proper Leader. She'd served in that role once before during her tenure here, and perhaps now would be her second time doing so...

Sonia hadn't been given any exact reason why she'd been put up with this Pack, but seeing Anna now, she was fairly sure why she'd been chosen. Anna had a tough look to her, sure, and she had no doubt the younger woman could hold her own in a fight. But there was a clear difference between just being a good Dog, and being a good Pack Leader. And someone new to command would need a strong, firm hand to guide them along the way.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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As Margaret approached, Anna smiled widely, certainly a rare display of expression from her, but one offered readily to the rare few she was close to. "It's good to see you too, Margaret. It's been too long." She said as she held out her hand to shake Margaret's firmly. "I'm glad we have the chance to finally serve alongside each other." She peered at Margaret for another half moment, before she pulled her hand away, content to fall silent and not press her on the rumors she had heard, if only to assuage if she was still well. But it was hardly her place, especially if their superiors had deemed that she was ready.

She looked to Charles as the next Dog arrived, eyeing the tall man up and down, and nodding politely to him with her hand outstretched again. "It's good to have you on board, Charles."

Then Sonia arrived soon after, and Anna examined her all the more carefully, her second in command that the older woman was. She certainly stood out, in her old Union coat, an oddity to Anna, but not one worth pressing for the moment. "Sonia." She said as she shook her hand. "I look forward to working with you. It's good to have someone of your experience." She certainly didn't doubt that, by the weathering of her face. And she knew well enough why Sonia had been placed here, to help guide her, even if she could only wish that it had been Horatio in her place. But there was no time to dwell on such things.

All in all, it looked a well enough Pack to Anna, from what little she could surmise at first glance. But after all, they had been chosen by the elders far wiser than her. All Anna needed was for them to do their duty, and she had little doubt that they would fail in that regard. She could only pray now that she would live up to the trust that had been placed in her to lead them, but a steady calm remained through her, confident in the judgement of those elders, and in the Lord. She cleared her throat as she looked across the three Dogs, speaking up a bit louder. "Now then. Two Dogs have gone missing. Justin Meyer and Eliza Mayford. They were sent to help Horatio Morale and I form a new pack, and investigate the Red Road murders, but they never arrived. I'm told they went by travel from New Life to Abernathy, where they were last seen. We'll be following their route by train and see what the local sheriff and others will have for us once we arrive. The disappearance of two Dogs is a troubling occurrence and we will have to be especially vigilant, but I am confident we will root out whatever darkness might lie in Abernathy and determine their fates."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Margaret smiled at Anna in return, shaking her hand. She would have had more to say to her friend, but then Charles and Sonia arrived and introduced themselves. Margaret kept silent then, instead contenting herself with observing her new Packmates. Carver...there was something she didn't like about him. Be it the confident swagger he had, or his Southern origins. Well, actually, it was probably that last part that biased her against him. His Southern accent was easy to discern, though she had no idea where in particular from the Confederacy he came from.

To his credit, he hadn't made any disparaging remarks about her being a Negro, or a woman...so far, at least. Margaret had met more than a few ex-Confederates in her time in the Deseret, as well as other settlers with their general mindset. Even if they tried to be polite to her, it was almost inevitable that their biases would flair up and result in a clash of wills. If the higher-ups in New Life believed he'd be able to work alongside a Negro, then it was possible Carver might be different from other such men she'd interacted with in the past. Only time would tell if that was true or not, however. Either way, she'd best keep her eye on him.

And Sonia...well, she looked striking in her old Union coat, for sure. She'd heard some stories and rumors about the woman during her short tenure as a Dog, and Margaret wasn't sure what to make of all of them. She seemed very competent though, and having a more experienced agent among them would certainly be of use. At the very least, she seemed more likely to get along with the rest of them, as opposed to Carver.

"I see. We shall have our work cut out for us, then." Margaret commented, after Anna explained their mission. Two Dogs gone missing at the same time? Some sort of foul play definitely seemed to be at work. Now they just had to determine what sort, and what the fate of Meyer and Mayford was.

The young woman hoped the two of them were still alive, but the cynic in her couldn't help but scoff at that idea. More likely than not, the two were long dead. It was hard enough to capture two experienced Dogs, let alone do so for an extended period of time. If their kidnapper was smart, they'd both likely be dead by now. And that assumed they hadn't been killed outright in the first place, which seemed a more likely possibility.

The whistle of the train jostled her away from her thoughts, and slowly their train pulled up to the station, coming to a gradual halt not long after. Their ride was here now: all they had to do now was board the train, and prepare themselves for whatever awaited them in the city of Abernathy.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Missing Dogs, missing Dogs...not the mission Charles had expected, to be sure.

The others had fair reason to be concerned, Charles couldn't argue that. The Dogs were trained harder and longer than any Confederate soldier, and then blooded all the more against a harsh land and harsher people, as those who fled into the deepest wastes of the West inevitably were. But that didn't make them any less human. Charles wondered silently if the hot blooded belief of those raised in the Faith might have elevated the Dogs a little too high in their minds. Training meant nothing against a cannonade or a sharpshooter from dozens of feet away. Of course, such weapons were rarer, and easier to track down if that was the case. But even if not, ambushes by bandits and Natives were a unfortunate fact of life in the West, and not even the Dogs were above falling victim, as much as some might be unwilling to admit. And Dogs certainly had the habit of making enemies, enemies that could certainly have eluded their final justice.

Of course, he kept these thoughts to himself, for now, and just stepped up to the train as it came to a halt, opening the carriage door for the other Dogs, tipping his hat as they stepped up with another friendly grin to each of them, even as he couldn't help but eye Sonia's Union blue coat curiously. The oddities of his Pack aside, it wouldn't do any good to doubt the capabilities of the missing Dogs until there they had even the briefest piece of evidence as to what had befallen them. For the moment, there was little to do but enjoy the calming lull of the train as it went on its way to Abernathy.

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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The train ride to Abernathy took three hours in total, and by and large it was an uneventful ride. The new Pack had a chance to chat among themselves, getting to know one another a little better and exchange pleasantries. But beyond that not much of note transpired, and it was with some relief that the train finally came to a stop at their scheduled destination.

As they all stepped out onto the train platform, a modest train station was what greeted them. The place was somewhat bustling, as people milled about, either just getting off the train or waiting for theirs to arrive. Considering that Abernathy was a main stopping line on the train from New Life, it wasn't all that surprising that the station itself was busy. Plenty of people had business going to and from the capital of the Faith: travelling missionaries, territorial officials, people visiting family. New Life itself was also a somewhat popular tourist destination among the Faithful. Many Faithful, those with the monetary means at least, made a yearly pilgrimage to New Life, visiting the Holy Sanctum of the Faithful (the official name of the first church built in New Life, more commonly called the Holy Sanctum), the Palace of the Prophets, and other locales of religious significance.

So it wasn't that much of a surprise when someone bumped into Anna, as she walked off the train. The person, a man of nondescript physical appearance and of an older age if his balding head was any indication, gave a quick murmur of apology to her, before boarding the train itself. Before the incident could cement any further in her mind though, their group was soon approached by an older woman with a sheriff's badge pinned to her shirt.

She was closer to Sonia's age, maybe ten or fifteen years older than her if the heavier wrinkles and clearer presence of grey and white hair was any indication. Still, the pistol at her side disarmed any notions that the woman was harmless. She radiated a sort of confidence that Anna often saw in older Dogs, and there was little doubt that if the older sheriff had to defend herself, she'd likely do a good job of it.

"Afternoon." the Sheriff tipped her hat to the group, eyes glancing over all of them. She hesitated a little, perhaps not quite knowing who the leader was, and who to address her question to in particular. "Ya'll are the Dogs from New Life, right? I was told you'd be coming in pretty soon. I'm Sheriff Jane Mills of Abernathy. This is about those Dogs that came here last week, right? I heard they've gone missin'."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Never one for idle chatter, Anna was mostly content to sit back and indulge in the rare luxury of a comfortable train ride, through she did catch up briefly with her friend Margaret, what little they could share in quiet tones. It was certainly better not to let herself grow soft from such laxity, eve for only a brief time, but the respite did at least leave her well rested and ready for the investigation ahead of them.

Anna stepped off the train the moment it came to a halt in the station, bounding onto the platform and working her way through the crowd. She let out an annoyed huff as someone jolted her, accustomed to people giving her a wide, respectful birth as soon as they recognized her as a Dog. But she could hardly fault the man, crowded as the platform was, and hurriedly tipped her hat politely to him without a second glance.

Tipping her hat again as the sheriff approached, Anna eyed her up and down, smiling contently at the outward appearance of an experience, Faithful woman, as was only likely for a woman to be able rise to such a position in West.

"Anna Ward. I'm leading this pack." She said, holding out her hand for a firm shake. "We are indeed here to find our missing comrades. I would appreciate you showing us your town and telling us what you know of the last signs of the Dogs. We'd that they had arrived safely here, so we will need to know every place they were seen, and who they spoke to while they were here."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Sheriff Mills shook Anna's offered hand, nodding as she spoke. "Of course. I can give you the full story, as I know it, back in my office. If you'll follow me?"

That said, the Sheriff turned, leading the Dogs out of the train station and into town proper. A bustling and growing city met them, with people moving to and fro as they went about their daily business. She led them down the street toward her office, pointing out various local businesses of interest and other such sights. Nothing too remarkable, though the Sheriff did mention three places that might be pertinent to their investigation:

There was, of course, the town church. Well, churches. Abernathy was an urban city, having close to 30,000 souls who lived there regularly, and so of course there were multiple churches, of different faiths, all over the city. Abernathy had been much smaller before the railroad came, hosting a tenth of that number. After the arrival of the railroad, however, its population boomed, leading to it becoming one of the premier cities in the Deseret. Of course, its population paled in comparison to the over 100,000 souls who lived in New Life, but for a city that had held less than 500 people during the sixties and seventies, it was an impressive number.

Regardless, the Sheriff had pointed out a few of the churches they passed their way. Overwhelmingly, most of the churches in Abernathy were of the Faith, but there was also a smattering of Protestant churches in town, and one Jewish synagogue, according to the Sheriff. One church in particular stood out though: the First Church of Abernathy, so named for being the oldest, and first, church founded in the city. The Head Abbot of Abernathy would likely be stationed there, which meant there was a good chance he had talked to, or perhaps seen, the missing Dogs. Even if he hadn't, the local head priest would no doubt be a good source of information to learn more about the town.

The second location of interest was the Hotel Lancaster, a hotel near the train station that typically catered to rich and wealthy visitors, as well as the local elite. According to the Sheriff, the two missing Dogs had been offered rooms there, free of charge. They had stayed there for at least three nights, it seemed, though the Sheriff didn't know more beyond that. After Meyer and Mayfield were reported missing, Sheriff Mills had her deputies lock down the hotel rooms they'd used, so the investigators from New Life could check them out. Searching their hotel rooms would certainly be a good first stop, or near it, after they talked with the Sheriff.

Finally, the last location of note...wasn't so much a building, but what remained of it. They passed through a block of buildings that had obviously been damaged by a recent fire: most of the buildings present in that block showed varying levels of smoke and fire damage, with the epicenter of the fire located square in the middle. The epicenter had the worst of it, with only scorched remains left from the burnt out building.

Sheriff Mills murmured darkly as they passed that block, remarking that a fire had popped up in the area three weeks prior. She said no more than that, however, and simply insisted she'd elaborate further in her office.

Finally, they reached it, stopping before a building simply marked, 'Sheriff'. Jane Mills stepped inside, gesturing for the Dogs to join her. Unlike more rural sheriff offices, her office did not double as a jail, and instead was just a small building that housed the police officers assigned to this district in Abernathy, as well as her own walled-off office.

Once they were inside her office, Sheriff Mills closed the door behind them. She took a seat behind the desk arranged in the center of the room, and gestured for the Dogs to take the seats displayed in front of the desk. "I imagine you must have quite a few questions for me, Miss Ward. Well, I'm not sure I have all the answers you're looking for. I had my boys do a preliminary investigation when we got word that the Dogs went missing, but we haven't been too successful. Where do you want to begin?"