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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 · 1,019 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: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Abernathy was more than familiar to Charles, in a sense, despite not having been to the city himself before. He had passed through dozen of boom towns that had exploded in size thanks to the railroad, when he had been working for the railroads themselves. He was hardly surprised to hear the sheriff speak of the diverse number of people in the city, as much as he knew some of his fellows within the Faith might believe, or at least wish, otherwise. Of course, it was only likely a city brimming with the Faithful that would tolerate a woman being their sheriff. He had to give credit to Mills, given the number of other people in the city that surely could not be so open minded. As they walked through the city, he only listened silently, observing the city around them.

"Been no trouble otherwise, Sheriff?" He drawled, once they arrived in her office, peering at her. The missing Dogs had surely asked such a question, even if they were only intending to pass through Abernathy. It was a Dogs' duty to mete out justice, even in the smallest forms, and some times troubles were easily and swiftly solved, if only because a brothel keeper couldn't do much staring down the barrel of a Dogs' revolver. And there was that look Mills had given the blackened ruin they had passed."What about that fire?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Sheriff Mills glanced over at Charles, frowning a bit as she mulled over her response. Her eyes narrowed a bit at the mention of the fire: it seemed to be a sore subject for her.

"There's always trouble, but that's to be expected in a city as big as Abernathy. Mostly petty stuff though. We've got our town drunks, our roughhousers, and other sorts of trouble-makers. Nothing too serious, aside from the occasional robbery or murder. And those get solved...or they don't. All in all, nothing you wouldn't expect to see in a city this size. About the biggest problem I've had to date is a moving brothel in town. It's...come to my attention that some sinners are running a moving brothel, of sorts, through town. It switches its location every week, and the people working for it are pretty secretive. I've really only heard rumors, and my investigations into it haven't turned up much." Sheriff Mills elaborated. The older woman sounding a bit frustrated as she described that last part.

All in all, nothing too surprising, mobile brothel aside. With a city this close to New Life, it was actually pretty bold to host such an institution here. But if they kept themselves mobile, never staying in a particular house or building for too long, then it made sense why the owners and workers had evaded capture for so long. And of course the patrons of such a place would be secretive and quiet about it, least its latest location be leaked to the police.

The rest, though, sounded mundane and simple enough. Minor crimes, even the occasional big one like murder or robbery, weren't entirely unexpected in a city the size of Abernathy. And unless something really went wrong, it was usually a simple matter for the city police to handle such things themselves.

"As to the fire...that is a somewhat long and complicated story." the Sheriff continued, a troubled frown crossing her withered face. "The fire itself happened three weeks ago, or thereabouts. Started in the middle of the night, and spread to the entire block. Thank the King of Life that our fire brigade managed to contain it there, though. We were able to quell the flames from there, until the fire burned itself out. Most everyone in that block were able to make it out alive, though some suffered burns or inhaled too much smoke. The Watson family wasn't so lucky, though. We believe the fire started at their house...and far as we've been able to tell, everyone died. We never found the body of the youngest there, a girl of thirteen, but her older brother and parents were found dead.

"That's not the whole story, however. Like I said, this is...a complicated matter." she said. That troubled expression still on Sheriff Mills' face as she spoke. "It's not unusual for fires to start now and again. Either through peoples stupidity, or the forces of nature. But this...is different. I have reason to believe that fire was started intentionally."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Anna wrinkled her nose as she listened to the sheriff's description of a mobile brothel. It was a remarkably clever scheme. It had to be, certainly, to persist in a city so populated by the Faithful. That persistence and cleverness make it all the more corruptive, to fester in the heart of such a city. Under better circumstances, she would have relished such a chase, but as necessary as it was, it hardly seemed something that her missing comrades would have become involved in, in a city they were only passing through under direct orders to meet herself and Horatio at Red Road. Anna certainly expected that those profiting from the brothel would kill to keep their ill gotten gains, but it seemed too unlikely that her comrades could have found a great revelation from the passing curiosity, as short as their time in the city seemed to have been.

She glanced off idly as the sheriff continued her report through crimes that seemed even less likely to have troubled the other Dogs, her gaze snapping back to Mills at the mention of the missing child. The gnawing ache from the thought of the Red Road children welled up in her chest, but she stamped down on those feelings, only letting out the faintest exhale of a tight breath. It was a flagrant leap of judgement to assume a connection, to be sure, brought upon only by her frustration from that tragedy. The reality was that it was regrettably easy for the small body of a child to be lost in such a large fire, after all.

"We will inquire with the abbot and then search the hotel rooms. Thank you for your help, Sheriff Mills." Anna said, once Mills had finished, tipping her hat to her before turning and stepping back outside. She looked to her comrades once they had left the sheriff to her business. "We will have to be cautious here. It is quite likely the others did not expect an ambush in such a settled city and that may have been their downfall. Lord willing, the abbot will be able to point us to their trail, and if some foul wretch tries to interfere, then we will have someone to question."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"You said something about the fire being intentional?" Margaret questioned, before they left. "Mind explaining that?"

Sheriff Mills gave a nod. "Yes. I don't have any concrete proof...just a suspicion, really. But there are too many coincidences to ignore here. Four years ago, there was a terrible fire in Abernathy. A quarter of the city ended up being destroyed. We've managed to rebuild since then, but a lot of good people lost their lives. The year after that fire, on the exact anniversary...another fire sprouted up. We managed to contain it just to the block it originated in, however. At the time, I thought it was just a cruel coincidence. Then...the next year, on that same day, another fire. I was suspicious by that point, but there wasn't anything I could prove: if anything, people here were more inclined to believe it a curse from the Dark King. Then...just a few weeks ago, the 3rd anniversary came, and on that day, there was yet another fire.

"Like I said, I don't have any proof. But at this point, I'm confident we have a serial arsonist in town. I don't know why they're making fires on the anniversary of that awful day year after year, but I
know someone has to be behind it. Once is coincidence, twice is a cruel twist of fate, and three times is intentional. Someone in my city is setting fires the same day every year, but I have no idea who." the Sheriff declared.

Margaret pursed her lips at that, a troubled look overcoming her face as she heard the tale. One, even two times, she could buy it as coincidence. Three times, however, proved intent. Someone in this city had to be setting fires once every year: maybe they were even behind that original, devastating fire four years ago. Either way, it seemed a good chance that there was an arsonist running about.

...Well, maybe not. One other possibility crossed her mind. But Margaret truly hoped this was just the work of some cruel man, and not...something else. The last time she'd encountered 'something else', her entire Pack had been burned alive.

Once the group was assembled outside, Margaret turned her attention to Anna. She nodded at her words, finding them agreeable enough. "Do you want us to split up, then, Anna? One team could go question the Head Abbot, and the other investigate the hotel room. Of course...staying together for safety's sake might be best, too. If Meyer and Mayfield were ambushed in town, we have no idea what lengths their attackers will go to to cover up their crimes."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Charles idly stroked his beard as he listened to the sheriff. More trouble than expected, for sure, but such was the nature of a city. At least, a city that wasn't the Faith's capital, but holy cities surely were the exception, not the norm. The sheriff's suspicion of an arsonist made sense to Charles, but if the anniversary had passed, the trail was certainly cold. His lips curled up in amusement at that wordplay, but he quickly pursed his lips back into a poker face, lest that rigid young woman of a Pack leader think he was finding some amusement from the dire straits of Abernathy. But clearly Anna didn't seem intending to pursue that trail either and Charles just tipped his hat to the sheriff with a friendly smile before following his comrades outside.

"Reckon we could split up, two's safe enough company. We sure know to be cautious. The poor souls we're tracking prolly didn't think to expect an ambush, in a place like that." He frowned solemnly at the thought, one he expected that other Dogs might not be so willing to entertain. The Dogs may have had training to match the most grizzled of gunslingers that he'd seen in his travels, and the Lord's blessings on top of that, but they were still ultimately only men, and the Faith certainly taught that only the King of Life was infallible among mankind.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Sonia nodded in agreement, finding the idea sensible. Of course, Anna would be the ultimate say in the matter, but splitting up into teams, to cover more ground, made the most logical sense to her.

"If we're splitting up, how should we do it, and who'll cover what?" she inquired, looking over at their Pack Leader. "I don't mind teaming up with Charles, and checking out the hotel. We can leave the Head Abbott to you and Margaret, and meet back near here in say...an hour or so? That should give both teams enough time to do their business."

That seemed like enough time to her to follow these first two leads, and maybe check into any further ones that might spring forward from there. And once an hour had passed, they could reconvene here, or back at the sheriff's office proper, and compare notes. Once they had a good idea of the timeline here, of how long Meyer and Mayfield had stayed in-town and where they'd gone, it would hopefully be an easy matter to find out where and when they had disappeared.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"Indeed. It has been far too long since we last saw one another." Margaret replied, nodding slightly at Anna. A small smile tugging at her lips, as she walked alongside her old friend. Indeed, it had been too long since they'd last seen each other. Exchanging letters was fine and all, but it was nothing compared to physically being together with a loved one or friend.

"I will admit, though, I cannot help but feel slightly jealous. We graduated at the same time, but here you are: commanding your own Pack before I do. It must feel satisfying to some degree, no?" she continued on a moment later, her tone light and teasing as she playfully elbowed Anna.

"Alms? Alms for the poor?" came a distant voice, not long after Anna's reply.

They weren't far from the First Church of Abernathy now, but Margaret felt compelled to see where the voice had come from. She found it soon enough: it seemed to be the voice of a disheveled looking homeless woman. She was sitting against the wall of a butcher's shop, holding out a wide-brimmed hat as she begged for money on the street. The denizens of Abernathy passed her by without a second thought though, most walking by her without even looking at the poor woman.

And Margaret felt that same urge, some quiet voice in her mind urging her to pay the woman no heed, to go about her business and keep going to the church. To ignore her, like everyone else, and resume her duties. Her better sensibilities fought against that notion however: with the certainty that ignoring that poor woman's plight was morally wrong and a sin. Indeed, her training as a Dog, and her moral upbringing, made her certain of that. But then, where was that urge to ignore her coming from?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Charles strolled down the street in the other direction alongside Sonia, whistling idly to himself and giving every impression of one casually as off-guard as anyone would be in a city that certainly wasn't rife with gunslingers and robbers anymore. But he was still carefully listening to and watching his surroundings, his eyes darting back and forth subtly as he glanced towards the corners of buildings as soon as the two of them were starting to pass by, before his gaze would then turn back to the crowds of city folk going about their day. That was the problem of such a large city that was not so safe as all those poor souls thought. Even if there was only the sherriff's problems to deal with, sinners and madmen all seeking to sate their dark urges, such things lurked under the pristine vision of even this Faithful city. He let out a low, amused breath to himself at the thought. At least on the frontier, the threats and the sins were all flagrantly apparent. Gunslingers settled their grudges at midday, at least usually. And the ones without such decency only had so many places to ambush from in the ramshackle mining towns that barely had a half dozen buildings to even call it a town.

But satisfied enough for the moment that an ambush wasn't immediately imminent, he let his gaze turn back to his compatriot, the Dog rugged and worn with age, even more than he was. He certainly hadn't met many Dogs that looked nearly so old, certainly to be expected in such a calling, but he was obliged to admit to himself that he was hardly a young blood himself. Instead, he just cracked a friendly grin as he spoke. "Reckon they even bunked the night at the hotel? I figured some of y'all ain't comfortable at the thought of fine living, even for a night."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"Some might not, but I'd consider such a blessing from the Lord. Besides, if someone offers me free bed and board, who am I to say no?" Sonia countered, smiling lightly as she glanced over at Charles. "Of course, that's just how I'd view it. It's always possible Meyer and Mayfield were more frugal and uncomfortable with accepting such an offer. I suppose we'll find out soon enough, either way."

Had she been in Mayfield or Meyer's place, Sonia definitely would have accepted such an offer. Living piously was a good goal of course, but one could also agrue that a free stay at a first class hotel could be a gift from the Lord, and so they should accept such an offer based on that premise. That was how Sonia viewed the matter, at least. She knew plenty of Dogs might disagree with her...but, having lived as long as she had, she honestly wouldn't pass up a night at a free room in a hotel. She'd slept on the cold hard ground, on lice-infested beds, on hardwood floors, and everything inbetween. One night of creature comforts wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, and besides, it wasn't like anyone could say the Lord wouldn't approve of his Dogs taking up such an offer. The Book of Life certainly praised a humble lifestyle, but it also said to accept gifts at face-value, and to not spit on the generosity of others.

At any rate, it didn't take long to reach the Hotel Lancaster. Once they walked in, a rather impressive and stylized foyer would greet them. Between the plush red carpeting and the expensive-looking chairs and sofas, the hotel's lobby reeked of wealth and upper-class living. Definitely the sort of hotel a traveling businessman would stay at, and similar clientele. Interesting that the owner of the hotel offered two Dogs a free stay, then. Perhaps he or she was a Devout person?

Regardless, Sonia walked over to the front desk, nodding lightly at the clerk sitting behind it. It was an older gentleman, perhaps near Carver's age, dressed in a formal suit. The man couldn't help but look at the two of them with slight disdain, taking in their more gruff appearances, but one look at the guns holstered at their sides stayed any choice words the front desk manager had for them.

"Welcome to the Hotel Lancaster. How may I...help the two of you today?" he inquired, as he quickly adopted a pleasant and friendly smile.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Anna smirked wryly in return, nudging Margaret back. "You'll have your own pack soon enough. I had the blessing of a good mentor for these last few years. It is satisfying, but..." She still would have gladly stepped back down for the chance to work with Horatio on another mission, especially one with such dark tidings. But all she could do was briefly pray once more that his own search would be successful, and return her focus to her own. "But I still would hope it would not be too soon that you are off with your own. I would like for us to be able to ride together for awhile longer." She said with another faint smile, before pausing as she followed Margaret's gaze to the beggar

She wrinkled her nose with distaste at the sight of the beggar. It was a blemish on the city's preacher, to leave one of his flock adrift, instead of guiding him towards honest labor. There were no beggars in New Life, after all. But chastising preachers for such a minor matter was far from her duties, even without such a vital mission as there was now. She would need the preacher's full focus on the missing Dogs when she questioned him. She simply took a coin from her coat pocket, giving the woman a cursory glance as she tossed the coin into her hat and continued onwards. There was too much work to be done already and Anna strode onwards up to the steps of the church.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Margaret spared one last glance toward the beggar, before moving along with Anna. There was something odd about her, something that nagged at her mind, but she didn't have time to really dwell on the matter. Instead, she walked up the steps with her companion, getting up there first and opening the front door for the both of them.

"Worry not, Anna. I'm sure we'll be riding together for some time." she replied to her friend's last words, even as her eyes took in the sight of the church itself.

The front door opened to a wide and opulent looking chapel. Pews made up the majority of the space, at least on the first floor. Margaret spotted a door near the entrance that was closed, which she supposed might lead up to the second story of the building itself. To the back of the chapel there was a large podium, likely where the priest spoke from. And in the back, see could see more closed doors: either other entrances to the floors above, or they led into a different area, perhaps a kitchen or a room for prayer.

Thankfully, they wouldn't have to go about searching for the Father, as they spotted him near the back of the pews, sitting on one of the benches and reading the Book of Life. And as the Dogs approached, he looked up from his holy book, perhaps sensing their presence.

He stood up to greet them, smiling kindly at them. He seemed to be an older man, perhaps in his fifties or sixties. While he may not have been old enough to have been one of the town's founders, certainly he seemed old enough to have seen Abernathy change and develop these last few decades. Growing from a small frontier town, to one of the most populous cities in the Deseret, only behind New Life itself in terms of population and prestige. It made Margaret wonder how the old man had changed with the town, or if he was one of the stubborn few who refused to change with the times.

"Greetings, my dear sisters. I am Father Joseph Mycroft, Head Abbot of the First Church of Abernathy. How may I help you two today?" the older man sweetly inquired.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Charles grinned wide, letting out a low chuckle. "Who are we to deny the gifts of the Almighty, even the temporary ones?" He said as he let open the door for Sonia, following her into the hotel. He promptly whistled quietly as he looked about the lavish opulence of the lobby. It was the sort of sight he hadn't seen since his youth in Richmond, aside from the meager attempts of luxuries that railroad bosses would furnish their sleeper cars with. The hotel most certainly was what could be called Eastern hedonism and waste, or so the preachers would say. All the more reason that a savvy hotel owner might offer such luxury to appease a wary Dog and belay any judgments. But the question remained if they might have reason to suspect him after all, for more than just his catering of the rich.

"Afternoon, sir." He said to the clerk as he sauntered up to the desk, smiling politely and tipping his hat. "We here are Watchdogs of the Lord. Charles Carver, and my partner Sonia Redwood. M'guessing you have a mite bit of an idea of why we are here." He would let the clerk run to his own conclusions, for the moment, and watch carefully for his first reaction.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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The clerk considered the both of them with renewed interest, though the sour grimace that briefly covered his face showed his unease. But, well, it wasn't too surprising. Even those who had nothing to had from the Watchdogs could grow uneasy and nervous around them. Most Dogs were an intimidating lot, and many found it hard to be kind or friendly to strangers, after years of seeing the worst of what the Deseret had to offer.

"Ah, yes. The owner said more of you would be arriving soon." the clerk began. "Mister Hershel, the hotel's owner, would like to extend the same offer to you, as he did the previous set of Dogs. You two, and any companions you may have, are guaranteed free room and board here at the Hotel Lancaster, if you wish."

"That's mighty gracious of Mister Hershel." Sonia replied, nodding her head. "But, we aren't here about getting ourselves rooms. What do you know about the 'previous set' of Dogs that came here? Did they stay here at all? If they did, when was the last time you saw them?"

The clerk covered his mouth with his hand briefly, closing his eyes as he considered his words carefully. "I work the main desk here during the day, so I saw...forgive me, I cannot recall their names, but I saw the gentleman and lady Dog check in here two weeks ago, when they first arrived. They stayed here two nights that I'm aware of, and they did not come back on the third night. We merely presumed they had concluded their business in Abernathy, and had gone their way. But, well, that doesn't seem to be the case now, from what the Sheriff has told us."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Anna smiled widely to Margaret at that promise, nodding with a brief grin. "Of course we will." She said, the beggar most certainly already out of her mind as they continued down the street. Her quiet friendliness faded, however, back behind a rigidly calm expression once she followed Margaret into the church, ready as the stern Dog once more.

She pulled off her hat as she stepped inside, murmuring a prayer as she looked to the altar, and then to the preacher sitting nearby. "Anna Ward." She introduced herself with a polite smile to the old man before gesturing over to her friend. "Margaret Throne. We have been tasked with finding our missing comrades, Justin Meyer and Eliza Ford. Did they pass through here, a short time ago?"

Her gaze flicked back and forth between the old man and the interior of the church, carefully surveying her surroundings before she eyed him just as intently as she would anyone else in her investigations. She couldn't afford to be lax and make presumptions, even from a holy man, when two of her own had gone missing a place where they should have been safer than ever.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"Ah, you are Watchdogs of the Lord then." Father Mycroft nodded at them, his face shifting into a more serious and grave expression. "I heard tale from the Sheriff that they had gone missing. I've been praying for their souls ever since. I am not sure what I can tell you that would help, however. Dogs Meyer and Ford did come to my church to pray and seek my counsel, though it was not for long on most occasions. I recall seeing them for perhaps...two days at the most, before they disappeared. I had assumed they'd gone on their way, and left things at that. I regret that now, however."

Margaret nodded lightly as she listened to the preacher's words. They didn't particularly surprise her, though there was always the hope someone they'd interview would offer clear, case-breaking details right off the bat. Alas, that didn't seem to be the case here.

"What did you counsel them on? Did they speak with you on anything in particular?" she inquired after a moment.

At that, Father Mycroft shook his head. "I held confession with Dog Ford twice, though I am unable to say what we spoke of. Breaking the seal of the confessional booth is a grave sin, I'm sure you understand. I could be excommunicated for even hinting at what was spoken in confidence. Outside of confession...Justin and Eliza did ask me to lead them in prayer, bless their weapons, and they asked me some general questions. How to get about town, where the best places to eat were, where to get horses for their journey to Red Road. General, mundane things such as that."

Margaret frowned at that. Not particularly helpful information, that. And of course Father Mycroft couldn't speak of anything said in the confessional. Hell, if he did, then she and Anna, as Dogs, had every right to take him into custody to face trial and potential excommunication from the Ministry of Social Order. Breaking the bond of Confession was one of the highest sins a priest could commit under the Faith. It just made Margaret hope that whatever Eliza Ford had discussed with Father Mycroft over Confession, wouldn't be important for their quest.

Still, he'd told them where to find horses? That would be a good lead to follow up on. It might be able to tell them whether or not Ford and Meyer had left town before they'd disappeared.

"Although..." Father Mycroft continued after a moment, a thoughtful look on his face. "There was one other thing. They also questioned me about the recent fire. Though, I'm sure I didn't tell them much the Sheriff hadn't already told 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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Charles kept up a friendly smile, even at the sight of the clerk's mild distress. He certainly wouldn't blame him for nervousness, but he was the opinion that kindness, or at least the illusion of it, went father than intimidation, despite what his elder Dogs might have thought otherwise. "Well, you tell Mr. Hershel that we're much obliged, and we just might take him up on that offer once we've conferred for the evening. Perhaps we'll have a word with Mr. Hershel as well, at his earliest convenience."

He nodded idly as he listened to Sonia question the clerk, before adding in. "We'll be needing to take a look at those rooms ourselves. Has anyone else stayed in them since their departure? And if you would kindly show us to their rooms, now." He said, gesturing for the clerk to lead the way, with a pointed stare to suggest he shouldn't delay, even as he smiled calmly, soon flicking his fingers at the clerk to indicate he should get a move on. "The Lord's justice must move swiftly, after all."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Anna wrinkled her nose faintly as she listened to the preacher, listening to him calmly. It was unsurprising, of course, that her fellow Dogs would seek confession even from preacher of a town they were simply passing through. A Dog certainly carried more and more burdens, the longer they served. And they would naturally look to a preacher to ease them, when time permitted such a luxury. But there was little reason to think a regular confession would have any relevance to their disappearance, even without the sacred right of secrecy to it.

"How did they seem to you, Father? Outside of the confession. Were they troubled?" Anna said, tilting her head as she eyed the man intently. "Did they explain their interest in the fire?"

Anna paused briefly with a glance to Margaret. "The sheriff told us of the fire as well. It is a troubling tale, but we've our own mission assigned to us already. As did our missing comrades here when they were here. And two days seems long for them to linger, no?"

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"I suppose so. I hadn't thought about their length of stay too much. And as for how they were...well, they seemed in relatively good spirits, as much as a Watchdog can be. Although, Dog Meyer seemed especially concerned about the fires. He was truly the one most curious about the incident, if memory serves. And...I do not recall Meyer explaining his interest overmuch. The most I can recall...is him perhaps saying it reminded him of something." Father Mycroft replied.

Margaret frowned, rubbing her chin as she thought that answer over. It was a vague if interesting answer. Assuming the Father was telling the truth, or remembered correctly. Just what did that mean, then? What had interested Meyer so much in the fire? What had it reminded him of?

"When was the last time you saw them, Father? Can you recall?" she finally asked. Establishing a timeline, if nothing else, would be good. If they searched long enough, they might be able to figure out who had seen the missing Dogs last.

"It was the morning of their third day in town. They came to morning prayer, and left afterward. That was the last that I saw of them. I had just assumed that they were going on their way, after staying two full nights in town." he dutifully replied.

So, they had shown up for morning prayer then. Where had they gone from there? To get their horses, perhaps? Assuming they had been intending to leave that day. Considering that they had stayed two nights here at all, instead of just leaving after one day here, it was hard to be certain. Now that Anna had mentioned it, staying here that long did seem a bit...odd. And as concerning as the matter of the fire was, especially if it was intentionally set, they had had their own mission to contend with. What had led them astray?

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"Much obliged." Charles murmured to the clerk with a faint grin as he followed him alongside Sonia to the elevator, friendly demeanor masking a careful stare at the clerk's own expression. He couldn't help but let out another low whistle at the elevator in motion, surely just as impressive a sight as the luxurious lobby.

"We'll be the judges indeed. That is the purpose the Lord entrusted to us, after all." He repeated with a nod to the clerk, waiting for him to depart before he looked to Sonia. "Best have two sets of eyes on each room, eh?"

He pulled the door open for Sonia, waving his other arm out to let her in first before going in after her. The hotel's luxury reminded him of Richmond, though he certainly wouldn't admit it on a whim, certainly not to a grizzled old Dog like Sonia who he certainly didn't suspect of having the same privileged youth he'd had. A part of him missed such mundane comforts, though he was loath to admit that as well, if only for the sake of appearances.

Charles stepped first into the center of the room, looking about as he mused idly. "Now, where d'you reckon a Dog would hide something if there was something to be hidden?"

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Sonia stepped into Eliza Ford's room, idly looking around as Charles stepped in after her. It was a first-class hotel room, she had to admit. A large, comfortable bed took up much of the right wall, while a dressing cabinet took up space on the left. There was even a secondary room that, when opened up, revealed a water closet, or toilet, or whatever one wanted to call indoor plumbing. It was an invention that was becoming more and more popular in the US, although they weren't as common in still developing areas, like parts of the Deseret.

Still, beyond that, there wasn't much to see. Sonia stepped back into the room with Charles, idly looking about as she considered his question. The flooring was carpeted, so it wasn't like their was a loose floorboard they could pry open to find any hidden caches. Where else, though, might a Dog hide something? There wasn't anyplace to really do such in the water closet. And upon opening the dresser, she'd find it empty.

Perhaps...

On a hunch, Sonia approached the bed and moved her hand along the mattress, until she slipped a hand underneath to paw at the bed frame. She spent a minute feeling around, until her hand grasped something. Almost immediately, she pulled it out, revealing a hard-worn, leather-bound book.

She flipped through it, briefly scanning the written pages within. "Seems like Dog Ford kept a journal on her. You'd think that if she'd really left town, she'd have taken this with her."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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Anna forced an annoyed breath to exhale out slowly, carefully masking her impatience with a calm stare to the floor for a long moment. The doubts around the fire may have been enough to draw a Dog's attention if they were simply passing through the city, dispensing justice as the Lord guided them in subtler ways. But Meyer had not been wandering and seeking such justice, he had direct orders otherwise. To go against that implied a darker discovery.

"Father, perhaps you could point us towards the homes of the families who were unfortunate enough to lose someone in the fire?" She asked, glancing briefly to Margaret. "With all the talk of the tragedy of late, I think the two of us might pay our respects to those families. And we do not want to keep you from your own duties for long, of course."

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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 most recent fire you mean? Well, not too many people died, thank the Lord. A block of people lost their homes, and that is unfortunate, but most managed to escape without serious injury. Granted...a few suffered serious burns, and even now we have a poor soul in the hospital that's still in recovery. As for those who died...from my understanding, only the Watson family perished that night. Not a soul survived in their household. Although, the Watsons do have family here in Abernathy, Joseph Watson and his young wife, Agatha. They lived on the opposite side of town to Miles Watson and his family. If you wish to talk to them, or the poor man still in the hospital, i would be happy to tell you where to go. And, of course, I can give you the addresses of those who lost their homes," Father Mycroft dutifully replied.

Margaret listened to his words absently, brow furrowing somewhat when he mentioned someone still in the hospital. "There is still someone in the hospital? It's been several weeks since the fire, hasn't it Father? Surely they would have healed or died from their injuries by now? Were they so extensively burned, to require such a lengthy stay?"

"Yes...something along those lines, I believe. I am no doctor, so I do not pretend to know just how badly young Richard Horpe was hurt. He's a boy of fifteen...and from what I understand, he tried to go into the Watson house during the inferno to save them. Richard lived on that block, and from what I understand...fancied the young Miss Watson. However, he was unsuccessful in his attempt...and for his bravery, became severely burned as a result," Father Mycroft replied. "If you wish to know more about him, I am sure his family or doctor could tell you...or, even the boy himself. I've taken to visiting him twice a week for prayer. The boy is taking opium to manage his pain, but seems lucid and responsive most times I've visited him."

Interesting. Well, if the fire had started at the Watson residence as the Sheriff suggested, then it would make sense that this Richard had suffered such severe burns. It made her wonder what he had seen the night of the fire, though. It also made her wonder if either of the Dogs had gone to see Richard. Of the survivors, Richard's situation differed: he had been to the epicenter of the fire, and survived to tell the tale. If he had any memories of that night in the Watson home, it could shed light on some very interesting details.

Then again, it was likely the Sheriff had already interrogated the boy, and the other survivors. They could just always return to her, and see what her initial investigation and interviews had turned up, if they were so inclined.

Regardless, Father Mycroft happily gave out the locations of all the survivors of the fire and their relatives, including the hospital where Richard Horpe was at, and where Joseph Watson lived. If they truly wished to investigate that path further, then they seemed to have some good leads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
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"Indeed. Lord willing, we shall find the right path to the truth soon enough." Margaret agreed, nodding her head to Anna.

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

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

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