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Anna Ward

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

0 · 373 views · located in Dogs in God's Vineyard

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

Description

Anna Ward

Image

(She doesn’t really have wings, I just like the picture.)


Age: 28
Gender: Female
Ethnicity/Race: White
Level of Faith: Moderately strong in faith. Anna does not expect miracles, yet still prays for them. She believes that the Faith works most often through the actions of humanity, perhaps most importantly in the form of the Dogs. She has lived through enough harrowing and dangerous experiences to firmly believe she has been chosen to walk a righteous path. In the end she is pragmatic enough to practice caution, but willing to take a calculated risk with the hope of divine protection.
Years of Service: Eight years of proud service. Anna has seen her share of terrible crimes and miraculous near misses and she still strives onward without pause.
Weapons/Equipment: Aside from the standard equipment of a revolver, Book of Life,and jar of consecrated earth, Anna additionally arms herself with numerous throwing knives and a pair of small single shot derringers, some displayed on her belt and others hidden in her coat and shirt. Also kept on her belt is a long leather bull whip. A bandana keeps her hair patted down relatively neatly under her hat. She keeps a small pack with her when traveling, filled with dried food, water, ammunition, bandages, and rope. The saddlebags on her horse hold additional supplies, as well as a lever action rifle. A finely made pendant with the sigil of the Faith hangs from her neck.

Personality

Stoic and driven, Anna has steadfastly dedicated her life to the spread of the Faith and the establishment of peace and order in the West, although that order is under the laws of God, not men. She just happens to be an agent of a high power, and naturally her judgement is above that of a simple lawman. However, she is quite analytical and acts with a careful caution even when she decides quickly on a course of action. She delivers a firm and final justice, filling more graves than prisons, but usually only those that are at least mostly wicked and violent. In the end she is pragmatic, but only to a point. When most of humanity is indeed a sinner, lesser crimes may be forgiven or at least lightly (depending on your definition of light) punished. But the murderer, the thief, and the heretic must be put down. While she understands that compassion is as much of a use as fire in the spread of Faith, her preference is to let another handle such matters while she pursues the worst of humanity across the desert. Some simple folk find her cold nature unnerving, and they often gives her the politely fearful deference that she prefers from people. The harshness of the life away from society has not greatly affected her, as she already knew from her father how terrible a person could be away from law and order. This knowledge and her experiences with it have only hardened her resolve. The truly wicked must be cut from the vineyard like the withered and decayed people that they are. Faith and discipline will protect the rest, even if they need the occasional bout of encouragement.

History

Born to a retired Dog and his wife, Anna was raised in the light of the Faith, in one of the more settled cities far away from the lawlessness and conflicts that Dogs gravitate towards. Her father, partially crippled from wounds during his duties, was her inspiration from a young age and she intended to continue his legacy after hearing many of his stories while he instructed her in the Faith. Her other source of inspiration was her father's fellow Dog and comrade, Horatio, who helped trained Anna when he visited her father, aiding in tasks that he could not due to his old wounds. Between the man who was like an uncle to her and her own father, Anna enrolled to become a Dog when she was only eighteen. And thanks to her father's personal training and recommendation to his former superiors, Anna enrolled as a Dog in training younger than most and was quickly ordained. She traveled out into the desert, moving from settlement to settlement with an alternating variety of other Dogs. Much of her ventures were in the pursuit of bandits, murderers,and the worst of mankind. For her the use of Dogs is to pursue the wicked and deliver justice, while simple preachers can handle the safe sacraments and other duties. Her swift justice has led to butting heads with secular lawmen on occasion, but she prefers to work with them rather than against them and respect their similar desire for law and order. However, in the end the work of the Faith must be done.

Goals

Anna is primarily concerned with her duty and carrying on the legacy of her father. When much of the West is a wild and lawless place, the hammer of Faith is exactly what is needed and she fully intends to swing it. She has already achieved her goal of becoming a Dog and now works as hard as she can in this duty. She takes more of a day to day approach to this rather than a specific long term goal, although she hopes that her work will help bring order and Faith to the West. That order tends to involve tracking down criminals and delivering bullet shaped justice, though the occasion petty criminal is only lashed or chastised if they’re lucky.

Likes

  • Horseback riding
  • The Faith (obviously)
  • Cooperation
  • Swift justice
  • Whittling

Dislikes

  • Inaction
  • Hesitation
  • Lawyers
  • Pomp
  • Ceremony

So begins...

Anna Ward's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Grandfather Harrison Character Portrait: Gideon McLeod
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Episode One: The Red Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The bartender, a man by the name of Adam Hale, looked over hesitantly at the two Dogs at his bar. Still, he didn't withhold any information from them long.

"Well, a lot of folks 'round here are saying that them damn injuns are behind it all; makes sense to me. I'm just thankful they haven't attacked the town outright. Some of the more superstitious old folk think that some demons are causing all the ruckus, but that just sounds....well, what would a demon be doing around here, causing trouble? Makes no sense to me." Adam stated, looking down at the bar's counter as he pretended to occupy himself by washing a perpetually dirty cup.

With the presence of the second, much more...frightening Dog, he was a bit afraid to look directly in their eyes. He certainly didn't want them to sniff the sin out of him, or something like that. Dogs could do that, right? That's what he heard, at least. It wouldn't surprise him, frankly...

"Not sure what happened with the Sheriff, though." he ventured, figuring that the Dogs would probably want to hear about that, as well. "No one saw any redskins sneak into town the night he died, so I doubt them injuns offed him. Still, it's 'bout time something happened to that bastard..."

Adam froze, belatedly realizing what he had just said to the Dogs. A sure of terror shot through him, but he quickly shoved it away, knowing he had to elaborate quickly, least they draw the wrong conclusions.

"Not that I, uh, did anything to the Sheriff!" he was quick to deny, his face flushing badly.

"It's just, uh....look, don't let the Dep...don't let Clarence Thompson know I said this. He practically worshipped Sheriff Coobs, and I certainly don't blame him. If the Sheriff did one right thing in his life, it was saving Clarence from that pack of coyotes when he was a boy. But....look, you have to understand. Sheriff Coobs was...not a very likable man. He had...disagreements with a lot of the people in town, Nate Blake most especially. Those men hated each other, and I'm not surprised at all that Clarence thinks he may have killed the Sheriff. Still....Sheriff Coobs won't be entirely missed. You see, he uh....out of all the people in town, the one person he had the most disagreements with was...with his wife."

Adam paused, struggling to come up with the right words. "Sheriff Coobs was...well...look, I'll just say this: his wife showed up an awful lot with bruises during Sunday services. Abigail always said that she had taken a bad fall, but...well, it seemed...hard to believe. To me, at least. So uh...well, not everyone in town is sad to see Thompson replace Coobs as Sheriff."

The bartender cleared his throat awkwardly, and desperately prayed that he had given the Dogs enough information. The sooner they were out of his bar, the sooner he could relax.

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

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

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

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

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#, as written by Tempest
Truth be told William was more annoyed then grateful for Annas presence. He could not argue at her skill as a Dog, nor her ability to intimidate but he had always made far greater grounds when people thought him harmless and friendly, they tended to spill more and worry less about their own immortal soul.

As the bar tender spoke William drank his beer, the cold liquid refreshing his parched throat and though it was little better then horses piss, Americans knew nothing about brewing beer, it would do the trick. Twice he paused and drew a handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed at the beer foam where it had built up on his moustache.

Much of what the terrified bar tender was saying had a ring of truth to it, and all of it made sense. William suspected that the Sheriffs death might not be related to that attacks but rather someone trying to make them look like the work of the same people, they would need to question a few others in the town before he jumped to any conclusions however.

The news of spousal abuse was only to be expected and William found himself wondering just how many bruises the bar tenders wife might have. Life in this little towns made for some of the worst sins imaginable, how did the saying go? The oldest sins in the newest ways, or something like that.

He drained his beer and tossed a silver coin onto the bar. It was worth more than the beer but William was well supplied with such money for it loosened tongues just as effectively as torture, without the messy results and had the added benefit of making an informer step forward a second time if they learned something new.

The bar tender eyed the coin as William stood back from the bar, touching the brim of his hat. "You may call me William, please contact me if zere ees anything else you can think of. Thank you for ze beer."

With that he jerked his head toward the street as his eyes met with Annas and he led her onto the porch in front of the saloon. He stopped on the top step, looking about again, noting how folk seemed less afraid of him now though they moved faster as Anna stood next to him.

"Zat was revealing, no?" He asked the question in his peculiar European manner as he glanced at her, one hand absently twirling the end of his moustache. "Perhaps ze should visit Mr. Blake, or the Mayor? I think ze Priest is best left for last, let him sweat."

In Williams experience the Priests tended to be the worst of a bad lot, often hiding behind their position as Holy Man of the community. The man would surely be a wreck by the time the Dogs got to him if he had anything to hide.

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Anna had a dozen other questions for the bartender, but she knew that could wait. The new information was certainly both revealing and worrisome. If the sheriff had such a moral failing, he could easily have failed in his other duties. Unfortunately, the bartender revealed little of the attacks. He would have likely blamed the Natives for any crime short of a poor harvest. Still, there was much more to investigate. "The Lord blesses those that aid the righteous, sir. Thank you. We will likely speak again soon." She nodded politely to the bartender, though her gaze certainly did not warm, and followed William outside.

"The wife as well, in due time." Anna replied to William's comment. "Perhaps she and Mister Blake knew each other. We should inquire further into the competence of the deceased sheriff. But we have not determined if he and his murder were connected to the attacks. The troubles here did not begin instantly. The mayor would be best to question next. We must determine the nature of the attacks." Anna said to William as they continued through the town. There was still much to determine as to the nature of the town and it's people. She approached the town hall, swiftly opening the door and letting it slam against the wall while her boots thudded against the floor as she entered. Dramatic effect had it's uses, after all. She strode to the desk of the mayor, leveling her cold stare at him.

"Mister Mayor. I would appreciate if you could tell my associate and I about the state of this town and what you know of the attacks." It was certainly not a request, but she feigned a polite smile for the sake of propriety.

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Mayor Byron Chesterfield jolted in his seat, startled by the sudden entrance of the Dogs. He smiled over nervously at them, and fiddled with the brim of his hat as he quickly adjusted to their presence.

"Why, of course! I'd be more than happy to coordinate with the Watchdogs, madam." he declared, his forced smile cracking ever so slightly.

God have mercy on his soul. Dogs were in town. Dogs! He'd be lucky to escape this encounter alive...

"Well, Red Road isn't in the best of states at the moment. A lot of folks here have been spooked by the ranch attacks, of course; and the murder of Sheriff Coobs has everyone on edge." he babbled, praying desperately to God that he would prove useful to these dogmatic inquisitors.

"As for what I know of the attacks, well, not much, I'm afraid. I don't know much beyond what Sheriff Coobs informed me, and I'm sure Clarence has told you everything he and Mister Coobs uncovered about the attacks. I'm sorry I can't be much more help." he added, as a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead.

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Anna would have smirked, if she didn't find this man's blustering so pathetic, much less insulting given his station. She fixed her scrying gaze on him for a long moment before glancing to William and leaning closer to whisper to him. "If he does not confess soon what he hides, we can drag him out to the street and he can confess for God and man to see. With the whip, if necessary." She patted the whip tied to her belt, then looked back to Mayor Chesterfield, certainly not attempting to hide the gesture.

"You are a poor mayor if you cannot tell me the status of your own town." She abruptly slammed her hands against the mayor's desk, although her expression remained stoic and stony. "Do you not wish us to save your town? Have enough of these Faithful citizens not perished already?"

Pausing, once again for dramatic effect, she then continued. "Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. Or his Watchdogs. Now, you will speak. You will tell us everything. Everything you know of the attacks. Every sin you so foolishly think you can hide. Every secret this town has that you would bury from the eyes of your Lord. Your former sheriff has died and been judged. We know he will be found wanting. The state of your immortal soul, however, depends on what choices you make here. For the sake of your soul, I suggest you choose wisely. What myself and my associate can do here is nothing compared to what faces the wicked sinner when they leave this earth."

Anna hoped he would not spend too much time blubbering and sobbing before he got around to giving them the information they sought.

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Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Anna Ward
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#, as written by Tempest
William had to admit to himself that he rather admired Annas straight forward approach, it was a good contrast to his own. The look on the Mayors face when she hammered the door over and then stalked towards him he had been much as one would expect a deer to look when confronted by a mountain lion. His nervous smile had only seemed to fuel the female Dogs energy.

When Anna whispered her suggestions to him he had to resist the urge to blink in surprise. Torture was not something he had ever endorsed, though it had its uses of course. He was glad when she opted for questioning the man more aggressively. If they were forced to resort to more intense measures he would suggest public humiliation, no one wanted their neighbours to see them tied naked over a horse as it galloped through town.

Anna spat fire and brimstone at the Mayor whose eyes seemed to bug out of his head as this small woman snarled at him. William for his own part began to pace the room slowly, finger idly tapping the butt of his revolver as he paced. His steps were slow and measured, sounding loud in the room as the heavy heel of his boots struck the wood in a near perfect rhythm.

The Mayors office was empty save for the man himself and a terrified looking young clerk who kept glancing towards the door. When he at last caught Williams eye the German shook his head to discourage the younger man from moving and saw a slump in the nervous shoulders. A man with something to hide. If it had anything to do with the investigation on the other hand, well, he would know soon enough.

As Anna threatened the Mayor with the fires of hell William turned back towards them and stopped pacing at last, the silence hanging in the air like some huge unseen threat. His eyes bore no trace of their earlier friendliness as he regarded the Mayor with a cold expression from beneath the brim of his bowler hat.

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Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Anna Ward
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Mayor Chesterfield stared at Anna fearfully, his eyes bugged out. He was faintly sure that he had just soiled himself, but at the moment that was the least of his concerns.

"I, I don't know anything!" he pleaded, his words as genuine as they were laced with fear. "I, I only know what the Sheriff told me! Attacks on the ranches, two weeks apart, everyone but the children left dead! And the Trail attacks started up not long after! Once a week, the Natives strike on the Trail, too! I, I wish I could help you, but that's all I know!"

Desperately, he tried to think of something, something, that might please the Dogs. Something on the town itself, maybe? By God, he hoped that would help! He was terrified enough, but he knew that the Dogs could do worse things than simply yell at him.

"They, they say that Nate Blake was having an affair with Sheriff Coobs' wife!" he blurted out, seizing upon the first rumor that came to mind. "I, I don't know if it's true, but my own wife says that she's seen Abigail Coobs come out of Nate Blake's house late at night! So, uh, you, you might want to look into that! And that's all I know, I swear!"

And it was. Call him a poor Mayor, but that's all Byron Chesterfield really knew about the whole situation. He had relied greatly on Sheriff Coobs' judgment and knowledge to sort out the ranch and Trail attacks, and aside from what he heard offhand from his wife, the Mayor didn't know too much of the town gossip. He was more focused on actually running the place; a task proven difficult due to the lack of safety on the Red Road Trail, and the slaughter of many of the nearby ranches. But he'd let Sheriff Coobs take care of that problem, confident the lawman would have things under control, given time.

Perhaps that judgment had been a mistake...

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Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Anna Ward
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All too easy. Anna continued to stare intently at Chesterfield as he spouted out everything there was to tell. Unfortunately, that was far from the new information she had hoped for. These townspeople knew pathetically little, even when they were practically under siege. To be fair, the attackers left only corpses, but there was still a disturbing about of apathy for such crime. It was maddeningly unhelpful. But at least he did confirm her suspicion of the sheriff's wife and his supposed murderer.

Blake had the motivation if he was seeing the wife and her husband had beat her, from what Anna knew at the moment, but that was far too simple. And given the nature of these small towns, it was likely Coobs was the only one who didn't know about his wife's affair. And the deputy hadn't hesitated in arresting him. If Blake was the killer, he would have taken Abigail and left in the night.

Yet the sheriff was dead, Blake imprisoned, and nothing to suggest the source of the attacks. Nothing but a dead sheriff who was supposed to have investigated the matter, yet found nothing.

Blinking out of her contemplation, Anna stared down the mayor for another long moment before nodding with satisfaction. "Thank you for your cooperation, sir." He was a fool, yes, but even a fool had limits on what sins they would commit. "We may return later with more questions." She tipped her hat politely to him.

She looked to William, lowering her voice. "The sheriff's wife, next. Question her and search the house. Her husband is the only apparent link to the attacks." She gave the mayor a sidelong look, edging towards the door but giving William a moment if he had more questions for the poor fool of a man.

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Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Anna Ward
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#, as written by Tempest
As the Mayor blurted out what amounted to little more than nervous bluster, William had to hold his tongue or he would certainly have called the man an imbecile. The idea that someone in his position could know so little about what was happening was so… American. The confirmation of the affair was only of slight use but it would be helpful when the time came to make an example of someone if they needed to.

Anna’s reply was all that was needed, though William nearly laughed at the polite tip of her hat, a movement he mimicked but did not bother to add anything as she gave him a questioning look. He fully agreed with her observation that it was time to talk to the Sheriffs wife, even if she had nothing to do with the raids, adultery was certainly a sin worth hunting down, mostly because she had failed so horribly at keeping it hushed up. He suspected that it might turn out that more than a few local men had taken a ride on a filly like that.

As the two Dogs left the Mayor sitting in a puddle of his own urine William looked at Anna, then glanced around to make sure they were alone. “Yes, ze wife would be best I think. Perhaps you should question her without me?”

He did not say the words because he thought he could not be of any help but rather he knew that women tended to prefer talking to their own sex. On the other, given that this woman might be something of a tart, she made find a handsome German to her liking. He did not voice this last opinion for he was sure that Anna was more than capable of bringing him in, if he was needed at all.

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Character Portrait: William Frederickson Character Portrait: Anna Ward
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Anna nodded to William as they made their way through the town. "As you wish. Perhaps you could search around the outside of his house. I suspect Sheriff Coobs was killed so that his sins and secrets would die with him. There must be evidence as to why." Everything was pointing to the sheriff's involvement in the attacks. The attackers struck with the numbers to kill everyone before a warning could reach the town. That required coordination, planning, tactics, and at least a half dozen men, even for an isolated ranch. It only took one stable boy on a fast horse to escape and raise the alarm, yet none had. And then the attackers would need quick horses of their own to escape before someone came to investigate the gunshots or rising smoke that would be easy to notice across the flat and empty terrain. At least a half dozen horses, yet the sheriff and his posse never found a trail. Something was not right. The only question that remained was why, but they had killed Coobs before he could answer such things.

She paused to ask one of the citizens walking by where the Coobs's house was, the townsperson pointing ahead before making themselves quite scarce. Finally, Anna mused, someone with some simple forthrightness. Continuing on to the house, Anna stood at the door, knocked, and waited. Of course, if Abigail Coobs did not answer promptly, she was going to enter one way or the other. The Lord's swift justice was not something to be delayed.