Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

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Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

Post  Mr. Pearse on Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:58 am

Usually, men adopt titles. Once in a great while, though, it’s the titles that find the men.

Liam Pearse had been Mr. Pearse for the past nine years. His workers called him Mr. Pearse. His friends called him Mr. Pearse. Even his women called him Mr. Pearse. He’d never asked for or suggested it, but they’d never once addressed him anything different. Maybe folks could recognize a "Mr." when they saw one.

Mr. Pearse leaned back in the rough-hewn chair, taking another sip of scotch. He’d been working on the same drink for the last few hours. Whatever ice had long since evaporated, and condensation clung to the glass in the heat of another long dog day afternoon. The drink still tasted fine; after all, it was top shelf stuff. When Mr. Pearse asked for a drink, it usually was.

As the warming liquid swilled down his throat, he dwelled on the clinking glasses and murmuring voices around him. He was in the more popular bar of Little Bethlehem, itself one of the larger towns that dotted the vast New Mexico Territory. Like in just about every town he stopped by, Mr. Pearse needed no introduction. The sheriff had met him at the town outskirts, and if the mayor wasn’t such a poor rider, he’d have done the same. Drinks were on the house, and the innkeeper had preemptively evicted any guests from the town’s best suite. Mr. Pearse hadn’t asked for any of this. At this point, he didn’t have to.

Mr. Pearse owned this town, just like he owned most of the towns and hamlets that dotted his own little corner of the West. Politicians ran and won with Pearse funds. Bandits and lawmen both fought with Pearse-provided arms. The local bank bore his name, and it probably wouldn’t be long before the church did too. In Little Bethlehem, his biggest holding was the silver mine right outside the city limits. It had never been particularly profitable, but it was the best draw the frontier town could offer.

Currently, Mr. Pearse was “taking stock,” interviewing the managers and front-men of each Pearse-owned business in the area. He didn’t need to – he often hired other folks to do this job, too – but when you had more money than God, you ran out of ways to keep yourself entertained pretty fast. Every small timer (and big timer, too) dreaded a visit from the boss. Mr. Pearse was amiable enough, but his piercing gaze had an uncanny way of uncovering the worst in people. If anyone was doing a poor job or skimming a little too much off the top, Mr. Pearse knew. Usually, that person’s livelihood disappeared. Sometimes, the person did as well.

Mr. Pearse’s attention snapped back to the bear of a man seated across from him. Paul Taylor was the mine foreman, and lack of imagination was excused by unshakable loyalty. He was saying something interesting.

"…yessir, what do we find two hundred feet below but a damned cannon, and an awful big one at that. You’d need three engines to railroad the thing, and more horses than all creation to move it anywhere else."

The Irishman leaned forward, curiosity piqued. As the light in his chief’s eye intensified, and Paul shifted uncomfortably. Mr. Pearse’s words were soft and lilting, but the foreman knew each syllable carried the weight of law. "Your mine’s drier than a nunnery, Paul, but you’ve still got the kiss of Providence today. Can you tell me more of it?"

Paul swallowed, and the hot room grew hotter. "N-no Mr. Pearse, there was a whole bunch of moving parts, but they got good and busted up in the blast we lit to get to the place. The barrel’s right gigantic, though, and it shines somethin’ fancy. It’s like nothing I’ve seen in this world."

A glimmer of a frown crossed Mr. Pearse’s face. This was the third artillery piece discovered in the past week, and the third smashed beyond all recognition. Still, all the cannons shared the same strange alloy, and all of them were discovered embedded in solid rock. Paul had mismanaged the discovery…but the damage was already done. There was no need to remove him now.

"It’s of no big worry. You’ve my permission to grab up all the horse from hereabouts you’ll need, and the horses’ owners if they get cross. Set them to work; I want that cannon at my ranch by three days’ more. Get to it, then."

Paul sighed an inward sigh of relief, nodding and rising in the same stroke. Muttering a farewell, he left quickly, nearly running out the door. The boss had clearly been disappointed, but Paul was unscathed; he might not be so lucky again. One thing was certain: it would be a sleepless three days.

Mr. Pearse lingered only a moment longer, finishing his scotch with a gulp. Strange events were afoot. The Irishman knew a thing or two about artillery. He’d headed a cannon detachment for the better part of a year, and he’d seen the many unsavory devices by which men could end each other at range. He’d never seen anything like the monster he’d reviewed yesterday: a crystalline monolith some thirty feet long, driven by the shattered remains of mechanisms more complicated than clockwork. You didn’t expect to find that hardware anywhere, least of all at the bottom of a mine shaft…

The Irishman stood, reaching for his onyx-plated cane. His gaze brushed briefly over the hulking form of an American Indian in an uncrowded corner of the bar. Clad in rigid hides, the warrior’s red face was a mask, but his stance betrayed deadly readiness. This man was Mr. Pearse’s most trusted hand: silent, powerful, and loyal to the death. The brave’s story was known only to himself and his master; supposedly mute, it was said Mr. Pearse could communicate with the brave by glance alone. Regardless of the truth in that rumor, it only took the briefest eye contact for the warrior to understand he’d be checking up on Paul in a few hours’ time. If the foreman was up to the task of retrieving the artifact, good. If not, the warrior would quickly find someone who was.

Mr. Pearse smiled warmly at the tables of patrons who were sneaking their own glances at the Gentleman of the West. Tipping his hat to a beaming barkeeper, the Irishman pushed past the swinging doors, blinking back a flood of daylight as he stepped jauntily into the street. His business was done for the day; it was time to do some exploring. He couldn’t remember the name of who ran the local cathouse – Blake? Ramey? – but it hardly mattered. He’d soon find out.


Last edited by Mr. Pearse on Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:23 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Bloomer's Proposition

Post  Ethan Ramey on Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:47 pm

"You'd be a right fool, but have yourself a try if you think it wise."

These words came from Saul, an older gentleman of blackened lungs who'd spent his life in the mines. He watched as his foreman squirmed before the Irishman, and he couldn't bring himself to blame the man. Everyone in these parts knew Mr. Pearse, and everyone squirmed in front of the man. Unless, of course, they'd been hitting the whiskey a pint too hard, which old Bloomer had.

Bloomer was his nickname, but no one was quite sure of how he came about it or what his real name was. He was a boxy little man, with a small bowler hat permanently glued to his head. He wore fancy clothes but they were all old and dusty. His pretend play at wealth fooled only himself, but it's possible that's all Bloomer needed.

Bloomer had headed out from his perch at the bank counter around noon, kicked up small plumes of dust with his old loafers as he strutted across to the saloon. Saul spied him through the window and groaned. He was too familiar with that smug look and those little determined steps - Bloomer wanted something.

And now here they were, a group of miners and farmers listening raptly to this little man as he talked. Bloomer was using half-big, half-fancy words, trying to sell them on some venture or another. Saul was only half-listening, but it sounded like the boxy little man was looking for muscle, trying to work some loon out of the area. Occasionally it would happen that someone ired the wrong man and shit broke loose. Usually resulted in the first fellow being ran out of the territory, but sometimes it got more violent. These facts didn't really perturb Bloomer; that's the way it was out here. It was the law, so-to-speak.

And that's why he remained quiet, to a point, while Bloomer went on and on. He only half-listened, instead sipping his sops (as he liked to think of his drinking) and gazing lazily across the room at his foreman, who was meeting with a man to be taken much more seriously.

Bloomer noticed his absence-of-mind and eventually followed his gaze. He knew from the moment his eyes landed on Mr. Pearse that here was a man who could get things done. Of course Bloomer knew who he was; everyone did, hereabouts. But now Bloomer had enough whiskey in him to summon up the courage to talk to him. Recruit him, even. Or so he thought. It was when he presented this idea to the table that Saul finally spoke up:

"You'd be a right fool, but have yourself a try if you think it wise."

Bloomer, never one to be patronized, exited the table and followed Mr. Pearse out into the street. Mr. Pearse took no notice, instead making a beeline for some place or another (probably the brothels). Bloomer struggled to keep up with him and, when his short legs failed him, yelled impolitely at the man's back.

"Mr. Purse! Mr. Purse, I'd like to have a word, if you will." He rushed over, hand holding firmly to his little bowler as the wind gusted a good time. He stumbled a bit on the way, whiskey setting his balance off, and launched into a sales-pitch before he was entirely in earshot.

" -octor that won't do nothing for nobody hereabouts, and I think it's time we did something about it. Now I know you're the kinda man can catch a good few riders on short notice; hell, I reckon anybody in this whole territory would come a-runnin' if you requested it, Mr. Purse. Now I've had it up to here with this Yank refusing to practice. I heard that ol' Smithy - that's Timothy Smith, it's what we call him, sir - I heard that he went up there with a bullet-hole from a Mexican pistola and this doctor, says he won't do nothing, and ol' Smithy loses his leg. Now we can't have that, and I s'pose you're the kinda man what can understand."

The boxy little bank clerk inhaled after all of this, long and wheezy. He'd taken nary a breath during his pitch, having learned long ago that most people would only listen to him if he didn't give them a choice. But now that he was no longer speaking, he found himself unsettled by the look Mr. Pearse was giving him. So unsettled, in fact, that he took an involuntary step backwards and, for the first time anyone had seen it (and maybe the first time ever), removed the bowler from his head. He stood, hat in hand, swaying gently, anxiously waiting to see if he had successfully recruited Mr. Pearse to his cause. Yet as he waited, he began to seriously doubt it.


Last edited by Ethan Ramey on Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

Post  Samuel Kircher on Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:48 pm

About a ten minute walk from the saloon was the respectable-sized jail and "precinct station" (what Yanks called it to be familiar) of Little Bethlehem. It had it's row of iron-barred cells to hold the common thief or rustler that had run out of luck, or just to hold one of the town drunks for the night. Housed in the jail was a room of barrack-style bunks, with room for the scarce few lawmen to catch a wink when the day was slow. It was in one of these bunks that Samuel Kircher was lying on, reading an old history book. Unlike the other deputy in town, Kircher actually resided in this barrack, and the others let him, as he kept the place in check and tied down rather well. The room was sparsely decorated, with the wall above Kircher's bed adorned with an old Union Army guidon denoting the 7th Cavalry, his old unit during the War. An old footlocker sat below the bunk that stored his personal effects, and opposite the bunk stood a rather stately and incongruous oak closet that kept Kircher's clothes and vital necessities. All in all, a tightly-kept room, one that reflected the persona of the inhabitant; straight, clean, and well-organized.

Samuel paused from his reading to check his timepiece, noting that it was beginning to approach two o'clock. He decided that enough reading had been accomplished today, and rose to grab his hat from the rack on his door on the way out. Next to the front door of the jail was the arms locker, which Samuel unlocked and opened to reveal his belt that holstered his Colt Dragoon revolver, the same he had gotten from the Cavalry. next to it hung the shoulder sling carrying his Peacemaker. Withdrawing only the Dragoon, he strapped it around his waist, and locked the chest back up. Donning his hat finally, he opened the door, and began his trip to the saloon for a pick-me-up drink.

Even though Samuel wasn't the sheriff of New Bethlehem, he was recognized by many of the residents, as it was the sheriff who usually appointed him to deal with the many disputes of the town. Kircher was thorough, precise, and always got a result, normally without anyone having to be brought in, which pleased the sheriff. As a result, Samuel normally got more than one how-do-you-do as he walked down the main thoroughfare of Little Bethlehem, with all greeting him by his last name. In fact, not many here knew him by his first name, as Samuel had never had occasion to give it much, except to the important folk in town, like Mr. Pearse, whom he'd had opportunity to meet a few times, but never at length.

As his leisurely but alert stroll down to the saloon neared its destination, Samuel spied a few of Pearse's men standing around the porch of the saloon. It would seem that the Boss was inside. As if on cue, out stepped the near-legendary man himself, quickly followed by a diminuitive man whose name escaped Samuel at the moment, apparently in some urgent need to communicate with him.
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Silence and the breaking thereof

Post  Mr. Pearse on Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:20 pm

It was a hell of a silence.

Passerby checked their stride and let their own conversations trail off, paying rapt attention to the man with the ebony-plated cane. The half dozen hired hands posted outside the saloon – uniformly armed, and uniformly dangerous – shifted in anticipation. Their gazes were as intent as vultures’, and their hardened faces flickered with sudden malice. The boxy little bank clerk shifted, too; he was scared, and he was beginning to think he’d made a very bad mistake.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pearse stared. His good eye appraised Bloomer intently, gauging the relative worth and importance of the man in the same way a shopkeep might judge any piece of merchandise. Mr. Pearse wasn’t used to interruptions, and he didn’t much appreciate them. Yet the little fellow had said something interesting; this Yankee doctor sounded familiar. It could be worth investigating.

And so the silence broke and time recommenced. Mr. Pearse’s demeanor changed in a flash, projecting newfound warmth. His face broke into a friendly smile and he took a step forward, offering his hand. When he spoke, his voice was almost melodic, merging the soft tones of an Irishman with the easy rhythm of a Southerner. “I’ve not yet had the pleasure, though I see my own name’s made the rounds.”

The clerk blinked rapidly, giving Mr. Pearse’s outstretched hand a bug-eyed look before grasping it in a limp, sweaty handshake. “Everyone hereabouts calls me Bloomer, Mr. Purse, on account of I’m not sure why.” Bloomer paused just long enough to draw a wheezing breath, no doubt readying another verbal salvo. “And I was sayin’, that damned doctor needs to be run out straightaway. Sir, I’ve done heard stories a’ what you can do to folks who aren’t proper and social-like, and so I figured, nat’rally speakin’, that you and your emp-loy-ees could – ”

Mr. Pearse waved him to silence. “I’ve no employees, only friends. And what’s the name by which I should know this scoundrel?”

Bloomer took a moment to respond. He did not talk in sentences so much in monologues, and if you interrupted him – if you could do so – it took him time to recover before he could start his efforts anew. “Bastard’s name is Ethan Ramey, Mr. Purse. He went by Doc Ramey once, but times like that are long and gone. Some folks say he’s a murderer, sir, while there’s others who would attest plenty to the good Lord above that the man practices dark magics away from the sights of decent folks, using his med-icinal knowledge for all things evil and debase.”

The Irishman nodded, although he’d ignored most of what Bloomer had said. The name Ethan Ramey was familiar – Mr. Pearse had heard stories of the man before, although he’d never taken the time to personally seek out one of Little Bethlehem’s most eccentric residents. That said, this Ramey character had not gone unwatched. According to Mr. Pearse’s sources, Ethan Ramey had blood ties to General Ulysses Goddamn Grant. This connection could prove valuable, and Mr. Pearse had taken precaution long ago to ensure that – should this man Ramey ever try to leave the Territory – he would not find the going easy. Maybe it was time to meet Ethan Ramey in person.

Mr. Pearse spoke, interrupting whatever Bloomer was droning on about. “We’ll leave straightaway. After all – ” at this he gave the boxy little clerk a knowing wink. “ – we can’t let the rogue continue these dark machinations unchallenged.” The Irishman’s attention snapped to the men slouched against the front of the saloon, and his tone became more businesslike. “Jeremiah, fetch horses enough for our venture. David, you’re to follow up with the jeweler who stopped by earlier; he’s been crooked. The rest of you, stay by me.”

Although he had not looked in the deputy’s direction before, Mr. Pearse suddenly moved his eyes to catch Samuel’s own. The Irishman's expression became one of happy familiarity as he called out animatedly to his observer. “Deputy, it’s always a deep pleasure to see you maintaining law where there’s none. I hope you’ll accompany me on my own little excursion – Bloomer here can explain on the way.”

At mention of his name, the boxy little bank clerk beamed, although he was beset by deeper uncertainty. He’d conscripted Mr. Pearse to his cause – quite readily, in fact – but things weren’t unfolding quite like he’d planned. Maybe, just this one time, he should have kept his mouth shut.

Regardless, it was too late now.


Last edited by Mr. Pearse on Fri Feb 12, 2010 6:31 pm; edited 5 times in total (Reason for editing : Sorry for the tardiness folks)

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Re: Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

Post  Samuel Kircher on Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:07 pm

While--Bloomer, that was the fellow's name--was making his proposal to Mr. Pearse, Samuel neared, and began to hear snippets of the man's hasty diatribe. He'd heard enough to catch the gist by the time Mr. Pearse himself hailed the lawman in friendly salutation. Tipping his hat to the Gentleman of the West, Samuel replied in a polite, cordial tone.

"I do believe I will, Mr. Pearse. This Ramey character's reached my ear as well, and I'd like my mind eased as to what his intentions here are, too. Allow me to fetch my horse from the jail, and I'll catch up to your party shortly."

With a nod to Mr. Pearse, and a quick but pointed glare at Bloomer that told the man not to be such a damn nuisance, Samuel returned hastily to the jail. Behind it was a small stable, with room for a horse or two. Inside was his horse Joel, a sturdy stallion that he was blessed enough to retain when he left the 7th Cavalry. Having been on his back for many years, the horse was one of Samuel's closest friends, if but a silent one. Taking the saddle from its place on the wall, he laid it on Joel and fastened it to him, fitting him with a small bit which was designed to make the horse very maneuverable, an asset for a cavalryman. Before climbing up, Samuel checked his more recent acquisition that was stowed in a saddle holster, a Winchester 1873 lever-action rifle. Making sure that the chamber was clear, and it was in proper working order, Samuel slid it back into its holster on the saddle, and swung his leg over Joel and into the stirrups. With nothing but a click of Samuel's tongue, Joel eased out of the stable, and the pair were on their way back to meet up with Mr. Pearse's entourage.
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Re: Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

Post  Claude Delacroix on Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:13 pm

***

Could Dante's visions of Hell be any hotter than this miserable place?

Astral projection usually required psychedellics to trigger the intial shock to seperate body and mind, and Claude hated psychedellics. How anyone could consider hallucinating for hours on end to be an enlightening spiritual experience was well beyond him. Still, the devil drives when the need is great.

And salvation over damnation was a decent need, in Claude's eyes.

The young man sat up in the dusty room he (temporarily) occupied. Everything was temporary nowadays. The sheets clung to his skin, which was clammy despite the oppressive heat spawned by the sun and desert. His head ached sorely and his gut was sick. Damn peyote.

"Mr. Delacroix?" a voice called out. A man's voice, someone used to dealing with people by the gentle intonation.

Claude's tongue felt three times thicker than it should, and he struggled to form a response. "Come in..." he managed once hs tongueu surrendered to it's master. He almost regretted the statement. He looked a mess, he could tell.

As he predicted, a man entered the room. He dressed all in black, from top hat to leather soles. "Good morning," he said as he removed his hat, showing off the mass of ginger curls underneath. "You asked me to wake you at this time last night, sir."

"Patrick." Claude said easily, his faculties returning to him. His own voice was at odds with Patrick's. Instead of a soft Irish lilt, Claude had a shocking lack of an accent. A sign of the well-traveled, or rather, the over-traveled. Though his face was cradled in his hands, a bleary eye peaked out from between two fingers. "How are the dead?"

Patrick smiled and shifted a little uneasily, his fingers drumming nervously on the brim of his hat. "A bit insentive, sir." he said as he shot a split-second dirty look.

Poor undertaker... Claude thought as he rose from bed, his hair a mess and his bed clothing the same. He was just a good Catholic boy, now he has to deal with me thanks to his bishop. "Sorry, Patrick." he said as he patted the man's shoulder and gathered up some of his cleaner clothes. "I meant nothing by it, I promise...But, if you wouldn't mind leaving, please...?" he said as he smoothed out his trousers on the bed. "I'm busy."

The man left the room with a put-upon expression, but Claude couldn't be bothered at the moment with the feelings of an undertaker he happened to be sharing a house with. There were strange things all around him...He could feel it in the air. And if he didn't find some idea as to why his sixth sense was reacting...

There may be Hell to pay.

***
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Arrivo

Post  Seth Ruggeri on Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:10 pm

The sun at his back and what seems like countless miles behind him, Seth Ruggeri at last sees his destination before him. The town of Little Bethlehem slowly comes into view as Seth’s horse gallops closer, its ironclad hooves kicking up a torrent of dust with each strike of the arid ground. Seth turns his head to the side and looks at his fellow passengers. The first, a young girl of eighteen with a somewhat lanky frame and stringy brown hair was clinging to Seth with an unwavering grip about his waist. In the girl’s other arm a young child, roughly two and half years in age, remains embraced against her caretaker’s bosom. “We’re almost there Moira. How are the two of you holding up?” The girl casts her gaze upward at Seth, the glasses that seemed too large for her face bobbing about as she tries to reply, “I’m okay Mr. Ruggeri, just a little tired. Flora’s fine too. She fell asleep not too long ago.”

The town was now in full view. The picturesque architecture of the territory that Seth has become quite fond in his travels through the badlands no longer appears as fragmented shapes and lines caught amongst the horizon but as a full fledged town. “Once we’re in town, I’ll find an inn for the two of you to stay at while I take care of a few errands in town.” Moira says nothing but gives a small nod of recognition. Seth slows his horse to a gentle trot as he reaches the edge of town. The town seems rather lively even at its outskirts. Groups of workers and miners pass through the main gate, likely preparing to dredge what space and precious resources the barren earth beneath them has left to offer. As he makes his way further into the busy settlement, Seth notices a small congregation of people outside the local saloon.

Never before has Seth witnessed such an odd amalgam of people. A short, portly fellow seems to be generating quite a bit of commotion, stomping about angrily and sweating profusely while ranting about some ne’r-do-well or hooligan residing in the town. The man to whom he is speaking, or rather speaking in the general direction of, is a well-dressed, middle-aged gentleman who seems generally uninterested in what his rotund companion has to say. Behind the two stands a gargantuan wall of a man of Indian descent, his attention resting solely on the gentleman at his side. As Seth comes closer to the group, he begins to discern the slurred utterances of the assembly’s most vocal member.

“I'm glad you're coming along, Mister Purse. Indeed I am. You as well, lawman. This doctor's been itchin' a place I couldn't scratch for a while now, and it's damn time enough we do something about it, and I'm glad you see my reasoning. Ethan Ramey's a rotten feller if'n there is one, so he is.”

Seth stops his horse upon hearing the mention of Ethan Ramey’s name. Turning his attention to the trio, Seth gives a slight nod and speaks. “Pardon me Signore, but by chance did I just hear you say the name Ethan Ramey?”

The plump little man furrows his sweat-laden brow and gives his response.

“Can't you see I'm talkin' here? And just who are you, anyhow? I don't recall seeing your face in Li'l Bethlehem before this 'n I've got one hell of a memory. 'Sides, everyone here knows me. I'm just about as important as Mister Purse here, and you'd do well to show some respect to a couple-a important folk like us. Now, interruptin' me like that, that's downright imper... imperta...”

“I believe the word you’re trying to say is impertinent signore and I apologize for my lack of manners. My name is Seth Ruggeri and I’ve come to this town in search of Doctor Ethan Ramey. If you would be so kind Signore… Purse was it, to point me in the direction of the good doctor I would be most grateful.’

The stout little man, now red with anger drenched in his sweat, fires back “Now hold on a minute, cause Mr. Purse and I were busy conversing and I ain't even recognized you yet. Lookin' at your countenance, and listenin' to yer speakin', I'm startin' to think you're some kinda foreigner. You ain't a Mexican now, are ya? Come to steal our horses and cattle and women and the like? No, you don't look one of those banditos. Of course, ol' Bloomer won't have his back turned to someone skinned like you just the same. No sir, I don't think you're to be trusted -”

Having grown tired of hearing his rotund companion prattle on needlessly, Mr. “Purse” gives a piercing glare at the little man, silencing him mid-rant. The gentleman turns to Seth and with an unnaturally charismatic grin on his face, addresses him.

“You’ll have to forgive Bloomer; he’s quite the excitable fellow. It just so happens that we’re on our way to see Doctor Ramey ourselves. You’re more than welcome to come with us Mr. Ruggeri.”

Seth breathes a sigh of relief, having finally found at least one person willing to aid him in his search. Feeling a tug on his coat, Seth looks back at Moira and Flora. The trip to Little Bethlehem has been long and the girls deserved to rest somewhere other than on horseback.

“Grazie Signore. Before I go, I’d like to locate an inn for the girls to stay while I speak with the good doctor.”

“I understand. You’ll find an inn just down the street a little ways from here. We’ll meet with you after you’ve found a place to lodge for the evening.”

Seth gives a parting courtesy nod to the group and rides off in the direction that Mr. Pearse gestured. There was something about Mr. Pearse, some aberrant air of confidence and charisma, which bothers Seth. Setting his qualms about the man aside, Seth arrives at the inn and dismounts his stead. Offering a hand to Moira, he helps her down from atop the horse. As she reaches the ground, the infant that had been slumbering quietly against her breast began to stir. She emits a petite yawn and rubs the sleep from her eyes with her tiny digits. Seth reaches out his hand and gently pats his daughter’s head as she wakes.

“Well, well good morning my little Florita. I hope you slept well. Papa needs to go speak with some people in town. Behave yourself for Moira for me alright?”

The child gives a light murmur in response and smiles back at her father.

“Good girl. Can you handle everything from here Moira?”

“Yes sir Mr. Ruggeri. We’ll be fine.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, feel free to order anything the two of you might need.”

“Yes sir.”

As the girls enter the inn, Seth mounts his horse once more and rides off to rendezvous with Mr. Pearse and his companions. As his horse begins to trot towards its destination, Seth hears the sound of horse whinny echoing behind him. He turns to see a man heading in the same direction riding a dark brown Mustang. Seth stops his horse and waits for the man behind him. As he waits, he thinks to himself for a moment:

“It seems that I’m not the only person in town with an interest in Doctor Ramey. This might turn out to be a more interesting venture than I had originally hoped.”


Last edited by Seth Ruggeri on Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:33 am; edited 3 times in total
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Bloomer's Anger

Post  Ethan Ramey on Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:12 pm

Saul watched the happenings through the dusty glass, sipping his sops and playing with the grime on the tabletop. The establishment was usually a clean place, but as the miners left, one-by-one, to accept Bloomer's request (after all, how could they deny him if Mr. Pearse was going along?), they left their day's work on the table and the chairs.

Saul witnessed the arrival of the Italian and his family, and the Italian's subsequent joining of the (now formidable) party. He noticed that Bloomer was suddenly quieting and making himself unseen, and he chuckled to himself. As Bloomer's buzz wore off, he undoubtedly realized the error of his ways. He had built an image of running riots and blazing pitchforks in his head, but upon approaching Mr. Pearse, had handed away all control of the situation. One might even say that the growing party in the street was starting to appear organized, something Bloomer most definitely had not had in mind.

"Maybe I should ride along." He quietly considered the idea, but an ache in his old legs led him to dismiss it entirely. He was too old and too weary for the journey, short as it may be. He would, however, sorely miss seeing the look on everyone's faces.

Another short chuckle escaped him, which drew the attention of the bartender.

"What's so funny, Saul?" the man asked. He threw an apprehensive look in Saul's direction.

"Uncomfortable with an old man laughing to himself, are ya?" Saul responded. The bartender lightened up a bit, and commenced drinking his own gin.

"You know that name what's going around town now?"

"Ramsey?" The bartender wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. There was a line of dust across his face, marking the action as fairly common.

"Ramey, sir. Ethan Ramey."

"It's suddenly all I'm hearing."

"Well, I've met the man before."

"And?"

"And I dare say he ain't worth half this commotion." Another chuckle, and Saul exited the saloon.

***
Bloomer's buzz was indeed wearing down. He had intended to take a handful of strong men and force this Ethan Ramey fellow out of the territory, but that idea was long dead. Now he began to sulk at the back of the throng as activity grew in the street. What had started as a handful of strong men had become a contingent of them, with not-a-few local stragglers coming along just to see what the fuss was about. In addition was Mr. Pearse, his intimidating Indian cohort, and the local lawman and his old horse Joel - "And who names a fuckin' horse?" Not to mention all the king's men, as Bloomer had started thinking of Pearse's entourage. And now this damn Italian...

No, this was definitely not what he had in mind. And as the evening drew nearer, and the caravan began it's two-day trip west, Bloomer started sulking in full. Mr. Pearse rode up front, leading the pack, while he was stuck back here beside some ex-whore and her squirming child. She kept yapping in his ear while he kept trying to catch snippets of the conversation up front. He finally turned and told the tramp to shut her hole before he filled it, and she slapped him across the face and hurried her steps.

"Damn whore," he muttered, as folks began to pass by him. No, this was not going as intended at all.

Nor did it, for the rest of the journey. They camped for the night and continued the next day at a leisurely pace, camping again a few hours away from Ramey's settlement, and Bloomer was growing increasingly frustrated with his predicament. That second night, he found a poker game with some of the miners and bent one of their ears.

"And here we're s'posed to be runnin' this fella outta the area, and I feel like the king up there's goin' to give him a fuckin' key to the city. And who the hell invited old Purse? And o' course none of the whores are here, God curse 'em all, exceptin' for the ones what gave up the trade accountin' on being so old and worn out. I'm s'posed to be leading this here exp-uh-dition, not scroungin' for somethin' to do back here with you damned workin' classers!" With that, the boxy little man threw his cards on the table and stormed off for the night. He found a little spot against a rock, a distance from the rest of the party, and sat under the moon fingering his revolver.

He fell asleep there, fat little head lolling onto his chest, chins quivering as he snored, and woke up this way too. And somehow, throughout the course of his sleep, he had come to a decision. As the small caravan tackled that last little stretch of journey, Bloomer played the idea in his head over and over.

When he saw Ethan Ramey, he was going to put a bullet in his head before the bloke got a chance to speak. That would show him for starting all of this commotion. And as they drew closer, he became more and more excited about this. Dammit, he would seize control alright, it was his exp-uh-dition, and he was gonna do what he intended to do, damn Purse and damn the lawman and damn his horse too! He smiled from ear to ear, a devilish, fat little smile, and rushed ahead to find someone to brag to. He picked the miner from the night before and bent his ear again, talking loudly and excitedly about his plans for the doctor. The fuckin' doctor.

And the caravan drew closer and closer to Ethan Ramey.


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cineri gloria sera est

Post  Mr. Pearse on Sun Feb 14, 2010 3:27 pm

For the most part, Mr. Pearse rode in silence, occasionally conferring with the scouts who darted ahead of the party. He did his best to ignore the circus of miners, followers, and curiosity-seekers that trailed behind him. Out in the vast wilds of the Territory, Pearse cherished the time to be alone with his thoughts. If anybody was too brave – or too stupid – to respect this privacy, the point was driven home by the threatening bulk of the Indian, who clung to his boss like a shadow.

Mr. Pearse had spent long years of his life on horseback. He relished the freedom that came with traveling under an open sky, and found that – with each bounce of the saddle – it became easier to recall moments two or twenty years removed. They were memories worth reliving. Over the course of his history, Pearse had won shooting contests, robbed banks, and successfully advanced the cause of secession in the Virginia legislature. He’d fallen in and out of love, led men in battle, and gone through enough shootouts to fill half a dozen dime novels. He’d stolen more money, had more women, and killed more men than any human being had a right to do; it was an exciting life to remember, but no longer was it an exciting life to live.

Maybe that was why he’d accepted the invitation of a fool to prosecute a fool’s errand, tracking a man who may or may not be a blood relative of the President, a man who may or may not be much of anything at all. Mr. Pearse was king of New Mexico Territory, but it had become an empty throne. The Irishman wanted something more; he wasn’t yet sure what it was, only that it was out there. And that it could be his.

Perhaps finding this man Ramey could help point him in the right direction.

***
At night, Mr. Pearse held court under the stars. Although he took no special accommodations – he slept on a plain woolen bedroll just like everyone else – his campfire was the clear center of attention. Members of the contingent fell over each other in an effort to personally meet the Gentleman of the West, and he played his part to a tee, responding to each petitioner with a pump of the hand and some passing familiarity. Occasionally, the Irishman circulated among the campfires himself, inquiring into each new group’s health and showing a remarkable memory for names and occupations. Due to the expedition’s cheer and easy pace (there were womenfolk present, after all), the search for Ethan Ramey had begun to assume a festive air. After all, if Pearse was with you, what was left in the Territory to be afraid of?

Mr. Pearse particularly enjoyed the company of the Italian, and spent long hours quizzing Seth about every aspect of life on the Mediterranean. Over canteens of spirits and tins of popped corn kernels, Pearse discussed topics from Italian agricultural methods to the ongoing Prussian Wars of Unification. He showed especially high esteem for Bismarck (“a damned resourceful fellow”), and relished discussion of European battles and tactics. For all his enthusiasm, Pearse was quick to admit he had never seen these places himself (“never the money, and then never the leave to do so”); his knowledge had been gleaned through books and scattered firsthand accounts. If Seth remained at all cold toward the Irishman, Pearse ignored it.

The most lucid moment of conversation occurred when talk moved to the realm of ancient history. Mr. Pearse listened eagerly to descriptions of Italy’s famous sites and monuments, from the towering monolith of the Coliseum to the eerie ruins of Pompeii. He spoke of his favorite generals and emperors, and dwelled at length on the rude transition from Republic to Empire. Yet when the subject of poets was raised, Mr. Pearse’s words carried a deeper meaning.

“There is a line by the poet Martial, ‘cineri gloria sera est,’ which to me has held a uniquely heavy wisdom.” Mr. Pearse smiled, the emerald sheen of his good eye dancing in the firelight. “It means ‘glory to ashes comes too late.’ The greatest men of our timeline, from Julius Caesar to Jesus of Nazareth, have received long and weighty praise in death. Yet I have often wondered – as Martial did – what a man must do to achieve such glory in life.” At this, Mr. Pearse grew momentarily silent. If the Italian had any response, he kept it to himself.

As other members of the caravan drifted off, Mr. Pearse stayed active into the early morning, writing orders by embers and moonlight. It was no easy feat to govern any kingdom, much less one whose settlements were separated by hundreds of miles of inhospitable badland. Two things weighed particularly heavy on the Irishman’s thinking. The first was the lack of word from the foreman Paul Taylor. Pearse knew Paul well enough to expect the task of excavating the cannon to have been completed well before the deadline, and this silence was strange. The second concerned the free town of Santa Anna, not more than a stone’s throw from their current destination. Santa Anna was one of the few remaining independent settlements in the area, having forcefully rejected Pearse’s previous offers of commerce and protection. Soon, the town would have to be dealt with. But for now, this man Ramey came first.

Mr. Pearse eventually fell into a light sleep. For several hours, hardly a soul stirred but the Indian, his dark eyes fixed on the serene face of his master. There was no menace in his gaze, but there was no love, either. Clear to all, however, was the sense of unshakeable devotion. Pearse had that way with people. It may not have been natural, but damned if it wasn’t effective.

***
After that second night, the expedition set out again quickly. There was a clear sense of anticipation in the air; whatever awaited them at their destination, they were close to reaching it. As the ground grew rockier and the sun climbed higher in the sky, this excitement only mounted. Leading from the front, the Irishman squinted as a ramshackle collection of buildings came into view on the horizon. It could only be the home of Ethan Ramey.

And Mr. Pearse was about to come knocking.

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Re: Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

Post  Claude Delacroix on Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:42 pm

***

Wakey-wakey.

Rise, rinse, and shine.

The face in the small mirror finally had finally become Claude's. Washing out the sand from his eyes with a basin of water and smoothing his hair with the same (with just a touch of pomade), it was almost like becoming a new man. The water on his face had revived him to the man of yesterday.

"Never peyote." he told his reflection as he dried his face. "Never again."

He'd spent an entire night wandering the astral plane around this forsaken town, only to find out what? That some big man named Pearse was coming through. The politics of a small sagebrush and saddle sore town meant nothing to him. The only thing approaching a clue was a mention of a cannon being excavated, but that was far from occult.

Breathe...Breathe...Breathe...Breathe...Breathe...Breathe...Breathe...Breathe...Breathe

"A cannon." The word seemed to carry a heavy weight to it. Come to think...

"Mr. Pearse."

The same weight applied. It weighed down the souund to the point it nearly clunked on the dusty floorboards under Claude's feet. A connection, maybe... From what he'd learned, Pearse arrived the same day as he had, only a little after he. Sadly, the man was long-gone by now. Some sort of expedition to find another man. Ramey, Rainy, who knows? Just thinking and trying to draw back on all the memories of the projection-dreams made his head feel like it was splitting open again. I could really use a drink... he thought to himself as he rubbed his forehead.

darkverydarknotcoldgettinghotohmyGoditssohotamIinHelldarksoverydarknotcoldgettinghotohmyGodamIinHelldarkverydarknotcoldgettinghotohmyGodamIinHell

He left Patrick's house without running into the lanky undertaker, something he counted as a small blessing from Heaven as he stepped into the desert sun, the thread of his navy blue suit soaking in the sun like a solar sponge. I really should have planned out my clothes better... he thought as he walked through the dirt of Little Bethlehem's main street toward the saloon. As he walked through the swinging double-doors, Claude's eyes made a quick sweep over the main bar.

The place was in a limbo state. No-one was drunk enough for real trouble, and the early hour made it so only habitual drinkers and a few men seeking escape from home were filling the place. In short, it was quiet. A few eyes turned to look at the slim stranger as he sauntered up to the bar, but most of the patrons kept their eyes on their drinks or their poker hands.

"A gin, please. No ice." Claude ordered as he took a seat at the bar. The bartender poured out his glass and handed it over, a smile on his face.

"You're that foreign boy that came in a few days ago, ain't ya?" the man asked as Claude took a drink. The taste was sharp and bitter, but he dealt with it.

"That would be me, I suppose."

The bartender nodded. "I could tell by the way you talk and dress that you ain't from these parts. Where you from?"

"Oh..." Claude's mouth formed into a mischevious grin. "All kinds of places."

GOTTOGETOUTGOTTOGETOUTGOTTOGETOUTGOTTOGETOUTGOTTOGETOUTGOTTOGETOUT

The bartender laughed at Claude's little remark handed him another glass. "On the house." he said with a wink as he walked over to another thirsty customer, leaving Claude to enjoy his drinks and examine his surroundings. The place was pretty standard, as far as territory saloons went. He'd always prefered the Northern states, mainly for their weather, but sometimes these scalding desert frontiers had their redeeming points. Mostly in their people. God knows it wasn't for the scenery or weather. As he watched the groups of people discussing personal matters and playing cards, his eyes finally rested on a deck of cards sitting on the bar next to him.

A cannon. Pearse. A chill in the air despite the heat.

Claude carefully picked up the deck and shuffled it throughly but quickly. When he was satisfied, he set the deck down and drawed the top card.

The ace of spades.

Death.

OUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUTOUT

A noise began. It was far off at first, then grew to the point that the entire building was shaking. Glass bottles and windows shattered from the sound, but what came next was the killer.

Literally.

Those who didn't scream from the noise now had no time. There was only a massive, blinding light, brighter than the New Mexico sun. Then...

Darkness.

"OUT!"

Claude's cry was cracked and hoarse, accompanied by the shifting of split and splintered timbers and followed by a hacking coughing fit in the dust.

Finernails ripped and bleeding from digging, his face scratched and his clothing torn and frayed. How long had he been under? How long had he been trapped in a tomb of rotting wood and shattered glass? The silver light of the moon and the pinprick pattern of desert sky stars gave Claude his answer.

From the air, the town of Little Bethlehem looked like a massive charred spot of the earth. A puckered and obscene wound in the desert.

From the ground...From Claude's eyes...It was oh so much worse. Buildings...Or what had become of them, anyway...Stood like burning funeral pyres over bodies in the street. The smell of burning flesh was still in the air, and it attacked his nose mercilessly. He was violently sick at the scene, vomiting out what little he held in his stomach into the skeletal remains of the bar. Oh God... he thought as he wiped his mouth and stuggled to his feet. What has happened...?

Pearse. A cannon.

***
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Bloomer's Fault

Post  Ethan Ramey on Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:35 pm

He reached in with the tweezers and grimaced as he lost his small grip and the parts went tumbling. Letting the tweezers drop to the table, he stood and ran a hand through his hair. Some doctor, he thought. Can't even get my timepiece running again.

As the day stretched toward high noon, Ethan Ramey forsook his clockwork for reading and drink. By the time noon rolled around, he was snoring lightly in the wooden chair, and his glasses had slipped to the tip of his nose, where they rested haphazardly.

And then his life changed forever.

There was a loud rap-rap-rap on his door. Ethan started, his glasses losing their perch and cracking open on the table. Before he could get his bearings, the door flew open and three men rushed inside, guns at the ready. The first, a tall man (taller even than Ethan) with a long, handlebar mustache, tossed a pistol down on the table before him.

"I hope you know how to use that thing, Doc."

Ethan recoiled from the weapon. The tall man reopened the front door and peeked through.

"Sonofabitch," he muttered under his breath. "Fellers, we got company coming."

The other two men swore and started - what? What where they doing?

"Um, excuse me..." Ethan stood shakily to his feet. On top of everything else, the room was just blurred motion. His hand searched the table for his glasses.

"Ex-excuse me!" He said more forcefully, as his fingers closed around the wireframe. He place the glasses back on their perch and pushed them up with his small finger. His room moved from blurred motion to one half-whole, half-fractured view. And still the men hadn't noticed him.

Well, I will just have to get their attention. And so he walked to the tall man and tapped him furiously on his shoulder. The man turned and grabbed his hand, and Ethan immediately regretted the action.

"What the hell are you doing, Doc?" He let go of Ethan's hand and Ethan shook it gingerly.

"In all fairness, I might ask you the same thing. What are you doing to my furniture?"

The tall man laughed, a small, cruel little laughter, and turned back to view through the door.

"That should be the least of your worries."

"I don't follow..."

"Doc," he spoke, turning to Ethan again, and gesturing toward the open doorway. "Take a look at this."

Ethan did as he was told. He stuck his head into the crack between the door and the frame and had his second start of the day. A large - is that an army? - a large army was heading directly for him. They were only minutes away.

"I don't understand. What would an army want with me?"

"That isn't an army, partner, it's a raiding party. And they don't want you, they want Santa Anna, but you're smack in the middle of the two."

"Maybe they'll just go around me..."

"It's a raiding party, Doc. They raid. They ain't likely to go around."

Ethan stepped back hastily. He removed his glasses and started rubbing his eyes, harshly and quickly. The tall man noticed.

"Doc, stop fuckin' around. What in God's name are you doing, trying to rub yourself blind?"

"Well, no, as it happens, you caught me sleeping, and I'm not so certain that I'm awake now."

"Well get certain fast, and grab that pistol I handed ya. Pull back on this part and fire with this one, understand?" He demonstrated with his own revolver, and, upon pulling the trigger, a click sounded.

"Take these as well," he spoke, and handed a small tin box to Ethan. Inside were numerous bronze-colored shells. Ethan lifted his pistol in one hand and a shell in the other and eyed them both. Terror washed over his face.

"And reload like this," the tall man continued, going through the motions. No click next time. He stopped when he saw that look of terror on Ethan's face and grasped him by the shoulders.

"Doc, look at me. No, look directly at me. There's a good doctor. Now I know who you are - hell, I reckon everyone in Santa Anna does - and I'm not yer friend. But I ain't yer enemy either, and you'd do best to remember that, because all Hell's about to break lose here. Now forget about your furniture (Ethan noticed that all of his shelves, his drawers, his chairs, and even his table were up against windows now), forget about your damn delicacy, and learn to shoot and reload that pistol before the shit goes downhill. I'll get you through this, understand?"

Ethan nodded rapidly, but the terror never left his face. "What's your name?" he asked, in a calmer voice than he felt.

"I'm Woodrow M. Millard, and these two are Andrew Millard and Dusty Magoon. He's an Irishman, so hide your drink." He tossed Ethan a hard smile and then promptly ignored him, rearranging more of Ethan's house to suit his needs. Within minutes, the place was fully barricaded, and the three guns had taken up positions at the front windows. Woodrow traded his demonstration pistol for his rifle and took position with Andrew (brothers?) at the right window, while Dusty leaned heavily against his mattress before the window on the left.

Ethan had no intention of firing a gun, and couldn't find a vantage point in this cramped cabin even if he had. So he placed the pistol back on the table beside the tin ammunition box and sat as far away from the front of the cabin as he could. Curling into a corner, he watched and waited.

"You were right, Sher'f; they're coming right at us." It was the Irishman speaking.

"Dammit," Woodrow (Woodrow the Sheriff, apparently) responded. "Well if Two Cents is where he's s'posed to be, we've got the advantage on 'em."

"He's hardly had time yet, Woodrow."

"He ain't ever let me down before."

***
Two Cents, deputy of Santa Anna and childhood friend of the sheriff, Woodrow Millard, was riding as fast and as hard as he could push his company. All the strongest men from Santa Anna were with him, but he wasn't sure it was enough.

Two Cents had heard stories of Mr. Pearse and the man's occasional visits to Santa Anna. He was a pushy bastard, that was a fact. He also wasn't happy until he owned every piece of property in the New Mexico territory, and that too was a fact. It had been only a matter of time before Pearse raided Santa Anna. That had been less of a fact and more of an opinion - until Pearse was spotted crossing the badlands with a strong line.

Of course, no one had gotten close enough to make any counts on that line. For all he knew, Pearse was raiding with women and children, with nary a man to be found in the ranks. Damn the man that came running back with bad news and no good information.

One of the riders hurried his steed and came up alongside Two Cents. It was a farmhand who frequented the saloon and whorehouse in Santa Anna, and he had saddled up immediately when the call-to-action rang. He leaned over in the saddle and yelled to be heard over the beating hooves.

"Sir, I don't think my cob can take this riding much longer, and some feller's pony is about to fall over in the dust. We gotta stop for a bit."

"Ain't no stopping," Two Cents responded flatly.

"But sir -"

"I don't care if you have to ride two to a saddle, but I told Woodrow I'd get every man we have behind old Pearse before the shit goes downhill, and I'm going to. If you think you can run and keep up, well you do that. I really don't give a fuck, but you better get back to your spot before I decide to."

The farmhand backed up quickly and continued to ride. His horse was sure enough tired, but Two Cents had no choice. He understood Woodrow's situation. They had the strongest men in Santa Anna, but their numbers were still small compared to Pearse's party. (And where the hell had he come up with so many men overnight?) Splitting up their numbers was risky, but if the sheriff could hold off the party at the Ramey place, a flanking maneuver was the best chance they had. And so he had left Two Cents with the order to ride hard, and ride hard he had.

Looks like we might just make it in time, he thought. Every second without gunfire was a better chance at success.

And then gunfire sounded from the Ramey place.

***
"Sonofabitch," Woodrow repeated, as Pearse's troupe became clearly visible. "He has women, chillun, and old men in that posse."

"You sure it's a raiding party?" Andrew asked him.

"I ain't sure of nothin' right now, but hold tight and let's see what happens."

The party stopped a short distance away, and two riders broke off from the front and headed toward the cabin. A third came bounding out from the group and stopped a short distance from the first two, who didn't seem to notice.

The two dismounted and walked up to the front door.

"It's Pearse and his Indian, Wood." Dusty spoke.

"What the hell are they doing?"

And then Pearse knocked on the door - politely.

The three guns exchanged glances. Ethan cowered in the corner and looked bewildered. The third rider hung back from Pearse and his companion, looking anxious.

"Answer it," Woodrow admonished in a loud whisper. Why would a raiding party come up and knock on the door?

Andrew moved furniture aside from the door hastily, breaking a chair leg in the process. He pulled the door open and looked directly into the face of Pearse. Before the gentleman could say a thing, he stepped around him to get a good look at the caravan - and then a bullet was planted square between his eyes.

"Open fire!" Woodrow yelled, and all hell broke loose.

***
Unfortunately, no one had known in time what Bloomer was going to do. He had bragged at length and at volume about it, but his greatest curse had proved his greatest boon: when Bloomer spoke, no one really listened.

He galloped out when Pearse and companion left the group and stopped within range of the front door. His emotions roared at a bewildering height for such a short-statured man. For all intents and purposes, he was on a drug.

The front door opened and he waited anxiously to get a view of the rotten doctor's head. It was at this time that one of the miners remembered his loud talking. The memory was vague, and he hadn't been really listening, but he suddenly realized what Bloomer intended to do.

"He's gonna kill him," the miner spoke to those around him. He repeated himself, and, whether they thought Bloomer was gunning for the doctor, Pearse, or the Indian, they moved instantly.

And the man in the cabin stepped around Pearse, putting himself into full view. Before the miners even broke from the group, Bloomer drew his weapon and fired a single round. The rotten doctor was dead.

And then, unexpectedly, gunfire started from the front - and, within minutes, from the side as well.

***
Two Cents heard the initial shot and then the battery of gunfire immediately after it. "Fuck it," he screamed, and steered harshly to the side. His contingent followed suit.

"Now look," he yelled back over the group, "we're coming in from the side and a bit to the front. We'll be in full view, but we no longer have time to flank 'em. So go in with guns blazing and by God, if you're gonna die, take ten of that bastard Pearse's men with you. Just aim away from the fuckin' cabin, because our men are in there."

And at a hard ride, the tired procession came into view of the raiding party minutes later. Some of the men had apparently taken his guns blazin' order to heart, because fire broke loose before they were even in range.

"Well, here we go," he said softly.

***
Well, here we go, thought Woodrow. He took no time for sadness over his brother's death; that came later. Instead, he opened fire.

In the corner, Ramey shut his eyes tight, covered his ears, and prayed to a God he didn't believe in that this was still just a bad dream. And gunfire roared across the badlands from every side.


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Prima il Caos

Post  Seth Ruggeri on Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:21 am

“It would seem that things have taken an unexpected turn for the worse.”

Seth watches as the throng of townsfolk quickly assemble into a frenzied mob. The ring of a single gunshot and the felling cry of the bullet’s victim signal the beginning of the bloodbath yet to come. Such a simple task, a mere inquiry for the man inside the cabin, who at this point might very well be the recipient of the assassin’s bullet, has become a fruitless endeavor. Who fired the shot? Why would someone want to kill Ramey? Had Pearse planned this all along? Much to Seth’s vexation, his question for Ethan Ramey, the ever-vital core of his mission, has now been overshadowed by so many other questions. Should he stay and fight? Whom would he fight for? What would he fight for? Seth’s thoughts return to Moira and Flora back in the town. Where they okay? Was the town still safe with no one left behind to protect it?

Without warning, a brilliant flash engulfs the warzone surrounding Ethan Ramey’s homestead. The blinding light brings the fighting to halt, if only for a fleeting moment. As the radiant, yet crippling glow begins to gradually dim, the ground trembles beneath Seth’s feet. It is as if the sun-baked soil itself quakes before the unnatural and otherworldly luminosity. Seth’s vision slowly comes into focus once more. He turns his gaze in the direction of the light’s epicenter. The scene that lay before him fills chills him to the core. Colossal clouds of smoke rise in the distance, white-hot flames dancing amongst the abyssal backdrop.

Little Bethlehem was ablaze…

--

Moira begins to settle into the room at the inn. She starts unpacking various articles of clothing and placing them on the bed. As she filters through her belongings, she comes across a white silk dress. She presses her hand against the material. The fabric is soft to the touch and still warm from the high noon sun outside. Moira stands before a large mirror in the room and holds the dress up to her body. She grins for a moment, surprisingly amused by the image reflected in front of her. She turns to the young child on the bed behind her and asks, “Well Flora what do you think?” At hearing the sound of her name, the child turns her attention to her caretaker and beams back with a smile. Moira sits down on the bed next to Flora, dress still in hand. She thinks back to when she first received the dress, not long before agreeing to accompany Seth on his journey. This simple yet precious article of clothing is the last memory she has of the home she left behind.

Moira looks at the infant sitting beside her. Such a quiet yet cheerful child. Moira’s thoughts turn to Seth for a moment. She remembers his arrival to the hospital where she had worked and resided at for so long. At first glace, despite his somewhat rugged appearance, she had a feeling that the man carried with him no ill will or malice but was in fact quite the opposite, a polite and well-mannered gentleman. When Seth required someone to help look after his daughter while he traveled across the New Mexico Territory, Moira had been the first to volunteer. While she had already grown rather fond of the child, having helped care for her in her parents’ absence, the desire to travel beyond her normal borders was the true motive behind her decision to accompany Seth.

Placing the dress on the bed, Moira rises to her feet and walks over to the window. The town on the other side of the glass pane seems so vibrant and lively. People from all walks of life, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, go about their daily business, traversing the busy streets of the town. A faint smile returns to Moira’s face once more as she watches the townsfolk.

“I’d love it if all the places I visit on this trip are this nice. I think I could die happy knowing I’ve been able to see so many wonderful sights.”

As these words leave Moira’s lips, an odd sensation overcomes her. In an instant, the air around her seems to become warmer. The light outside the window begins to brighten as and the people in the street begin to shield their eyes. The intensity of the light increases, growing more blinding with each passing second, until finally everything is consumed in a brilliant explosion of luminescence. The temperature of the air continues to rise, at first gradually but soon the room itself becomes like furnace. Moira’s soon feels a burning sensation across her body, as if her skin was trying to tear itself from her burns. As her vision begins to fail and her sense of feeling begins to fade, the room combusts in an instant with a deafening bang. As the world around her begins to fall apart and evaporate, Moira begins to lose consciousness. As she collapses beneath the weight of falling debris, she attempts in vain to stretch out her hand, as if to grab hold of some fleeting form of salvation. The light is soon succeeded by absolute darkness as Moira fades into the inky and silent void.


Last edited by Seth Ruggeri on Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:31 am; edited 3 times in total
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Luck of the Irish

Post  Mr. Pearse on Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:35 am

Mr. Pearse had never paid much mind to small men. These men were limited instruments of limited means, to be used – and discarded – at the behest of those who were great. Such an outlook had guided Pearse well throughout his life. This time, however, that luck faltered.

The boxy little bank clerk had been the very embodiment of a small man. His tiny stature and tinier ambition had long condemned him to a life of obscurity. To the Gentleman of the West, Bloomer’s importance had begun and ended with the initial impetus to find Ethan Ramey.

After that, Pearse had quietly ignored the bank clerk’s blustering monologues. He’d ignored reports of Bloomer’s bizarre new behaviors and darkly muttered threats. He’d ignored it when the boxy little bank clerk squealed with excitement as the Ramey residence came into sight, and – yes – he’d even ignored it when Bloomer’s horse had broken ranks behind him.

Unfortunately, not even Mr. Pearse could ignore a gunshot.

As Andrew Millard dropped like a stone, Pearse was already reaching into the fold of his jacket. He took no notice of the Indian to his left, nor of the scuffle that immediately erupted some fifty feet to his rear. His eyes were locked on the window to his right, and the grimly determined face behind it which spelled his death.

While the milliseconds ticked by, the tall man with the handlebar mustache consciously rechecked the angling of his rifle. He had the luxury of time, and both men knew it. No gunslinger alive or dead could draw and level a firearm faster than his opponent could pull a trigger. When that opponent was less than two yards away with weapon aimed and ready – well, that kind of fight was hardly even worth watching.

In the span it takes a man to blink, Mr. Pearse consigned himself to death. He would never become a Caesar or Charlemagne. His lot, cast in the leafy valleys of Virginia, would end upon the cracked earth of the Territory, amidst a kingdom of failed mines and languishing border towns. While he faced his fate with frustration over tasks left undone and unease over what new trials he might face, he did so without fear. In that regard, at least, he was ready.

Mouthing a final word of prayer for his brother, Woodrow Millard squeezed the trigger.

And missed.

From a distance of five feet, the sheriff’s shot shattered through the window and went wide. Instead of embedding itself in Pearse’s skull, the bullet sped off target, striking the Indian in the shoulder. The brave opened his mouth in a voiceless roar, and the Gentleman of the West wasted no time in returning Woodrow’s favor with interest.

Before the sheriff had finished absorbing the significance of his miss, Pearse’s own gun was angled and ready. It was a fearsome sight; a LeMat Revolver manufactured at the height of the Civil War, its curious design originated from a time when men struggled to kill each other by the hundred thousand. In addition to nine chambered rounds, the firearm’s central barrel was capable of expelling a round of deadly grapeshot. This was the shot that the Pearse prepared, and – as Woodrow’s eyes flared with sudden realization – this was the shot that Pearse fired.

The sheriff never stood a chance. Ammunition originally intended for the likes of buffalo could do terrible things to a human body. As the revolver thundered and dozens of lead fragments tore through Woodrow’s exposed flesh, the sheriff slumped, neck turned to a bloody stump. His end, and the end of the Millard line, had been accomplished in a matter of seconds.

Meanwhile, the remaining deputy didn’t have time to fire at all. Still struggling to right an unsteady aim, Dusty Magoon was tackled bodily to the ground as the Indian leapt through the window with the force of a freight train. Before Dusty could fight back, he was in his death throes, a foot-and-a-half of Bowie Knife buried in his chest. As the blade rose and fell again and again in the warrior’s hand, the (other) Irishman managed only a garbled scream before falling silent for good, his blood pooling thick on the shack’s floorboards.

Flipping the LeMant’s lever from buckshot to bullets, Mr. Pearse stepped swiftly through the door, casting about the gloomy interior of Ethan Ramey’s home. His cane had been discarded; the sudden rush of adrenaline had rendered his game leg good as new. It took Pearse the matter of an instant to spy the shack’s remaining occupant, a trembling man with wireframe glasses and a half-glazed expression, his back to the wall and his fingers locked around a revolver.

It took another instant for Pearse to determine that the firearm’s loading gate was open and its trigger half-cocked. In its current state, the gun was good as useless; Pearse lunged forward, knocking the weapon from the doctor’s grasp and quashing what tiny threat remained.

And then, through a stinking cloud of gunpowder smoke, Mr. Pearse smiled. It was not a kind expression. “The name’s Liam Pearse. We’ll speak soon, Ethan Ramey, after these wrongs have been righted and damage undone.”

The Irishman turned and the Indian was instantly at his side. The warrior’s heavy tunic was splattered with both Dusty’s blood and his own. Although the brave’s red face was a mask, the glance he exchanged with Pearse was unmistakable; he would guard the doctor until the battle was ended, preventing both escape and any further outside interference.

Task complete, Pearse strode back out of Ramey’s shack and into a battlefield. A large group of assailants (bandits?) had emerged from the west, lacing bullets across a caravan dotted with women, children, and the elderly. Nevertheless, the Irishman’s hired hands and a collection of independent miners were pushing back hard, and losses mounted on both sides as the air began to echo with cries and billow with gunsmoke.

Mr. Pearse had just climbed astride his horse to join the melee when – in a sudden burst of cascade brilliance – he witnessed one of the most beautiful things he’d ever see in his life.

Sunrise, Sunset, and Armageddon, all rolled into one.

The earth shook and the vast tract of the Territory was bathed in dazzling light. Although the tremors and flash of radiance lasted for only a few seconds, the image emblazoned in each observer’s eye sockets lasted far longer. In mid-shot and mid-shout, combatants stopped and turned southward – toward Little Bethlehem, where a pillar of brilliance and flame alighted high into the afternoon sky.

None might easily recount whether it was seconds or hours that the adversaries stared agape at the southern horizon. Regardless, it was Mr. Pearse who first broke the unearthly silence, dragging his stunned audience back into reality. As time recommenced, so did the bloodletting.

“I’ve no notion how this all began, but I know how it will end. Leave five alive; kill the rest as they stand!”

And with those words, reality again became all too real.

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Bloomer's Demise

Post  Ethan Ramey on Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:17 pm

As the first gunshot rang out and Andrew Millard fell back into the doorway, much of the back of his head missing, Ethan started and cowered so hard that he felt he'd move through the back wall. His glasses promptly fell off and he had no clear thought of finding them. Instead, he tried to become invisible, hoping against all hope that it was over.

But gunfire begot gunfire, and Woodrow Millard was the next to fall. His head was blown cleanly off, and Ethan listened to himself scream. A man plunged through the window and some logical part of Ethan's mind tried to click on. It repeated, tonelessly: GET THE GUN GET THE GUN GET THE GUN. But where was it? He was aware that the table was now up against the window, and he had placed the gun on the table. His eyes moved to the empty space where it had been, and then followed from there to the floor. There, barrel lodged in a crack between the planks, was the revolver Woodrow had pushed on him. He reached out and snatched it, pulling splinters into the air as he ripped it back and returned as quickly as possible to his corner. And no sooner had he resumed his place than a man was entering through the doorway.

Ethan then did something that scared him more than it did the oncoming man: he leveled the pistol and attempted to pull the trigger. But the pistol was immediately thrown from his grip, even as he realized that it hadn't been loaded in the first place. And then more motion, and the man was gone, back into the fray. Ethan was left alone with an Indian; a tall, imposing Indian, but he seemed to mean him no harm. This fact settled firmly in his mind, and Ethan grew immediately attached to his protector. To him, there were no good guys or bad guys in this fight, but simply those who had been protecting him, and the Indian that was protecting him now.

But one man protecting him from such a large assailant force? Ethan attempted to reach for the gun again, but the Indian promptly stopped his progress. So he sat back and stared blankly, everything blurred in the absence of his glasses.

And then there was light.

For just a moment, everything grew quiet. The light blasted through the windows with such force that the ground shook, and then it was gone, and the fighting had resumed.

It was simply too much. Ethan cried, hating himself for doing so, while the Indian watched in silence.

***
Bloomer's aim was spot on. A loathsome smile crept across his face, and then the wind was promptly knocked out of him as someone tackled him from his mount.

The smile was gone. Someone was punching him repeatedly in the face, and gunfire was coming from all around. Blood squirted from his nose in streams, and then an all new pain washed over him, as his assailant was knocked aside by panicked feet.

Now there were new guns in the mix, sounding from some direction Bloomer was too disoriented to name. Many of the town's men (and a few of its women) were rushing headlong to meet their attackers. Many, however, were simply running, with no destination in mind. And Bloomer was caught beneath them. Men stepped on his face without notice. He tried to scream obscenities, and then simply tried to scream, but blood was catching in his mouth and throat and the attempt was fruitless. A horse, bleeding from the neck, fell heavily onto his legs, forcing them to bend and break in strange directions. It kicked wildly, almost catching him in the face, and managed to stand, something Bloomer would never do again.

Then there was a bright light, and Bloomer swore he was dead.

Unfortunately, he wasn't dead yet. More feet, more gunfire, more bullets, and more blood. He lost sight in one of his eyes but managed to roll over. As he pulled himself along the ground, trying to crawl from the fray, he was kicked again in someone's escape attempt. The air left him, expelling blood from his nose and mouth, and he found himself on his back in the dirt and dust. A bullet caught him in the stomach, but the feeling had left all but his face.

And then he saw the ex-whore, running and screaming with the rest of them, and she didn't notice as her foot came down onto his cheek, where she had slapped him for rude advances not long ago. There was a loud crack, and his vision was gone entirely - as was the pain.

No-good whore, he thought, and finally managed a scream. It was the last sound Bloomer ever made, and no one listened.
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Re: Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

Post  Samuel Kircher on Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:57 pm

Samuel watched with alarm as Bloomer executed his pithy scheme, and swore a mighty curse on the man when his single gunshot escalated the affair into a shootout in what was basically an open field, with little to no cover. Instantly, the smell of gunsmoke shifted Samuel into cavalryman mode, his senses of sight and hearing becoming elevated through years of ingrained training. Withdrawing the Winchester rifle from the saddle sling, he worked the lever action and chambered a round. Signaling the sheriff and other deputy, whom he was riding next to, to follow his lead, they and several other capable men broke off into a small cavalry phalanx, partly to draw off fire from the elderly and womenfolk, and partly to return fire. Samuel had the particularly handy skill of being able to shoot a rifle while on horseback, something else the War had given him, which he put to use promptly, with every fired shot producing either a downed horse or enemy rider, in various states of health. Samuel didn't necessarily shoot to kill, but if it happened, then so be it.

Then the ground trembled, and behind them came a light that Samuel swore could only have been produced by a heavenly being. It lasted for several seconds, but no one could truly tell, and then Samuel saw the town of Little Bethelehem in a fiery holocaust. Stunned, it took him a full ten seconds to remember that people were still shooting at him.

Samuel barely had time to note the small group of Santa Anna riders sweeping around from the north of the cabin, in an attempt to pincer the whole caravan before they began firing off their guns at his men. Whistling for a charge, he and the ten men with him rode at full gallop to intercept. Suddenly, the deputy riding next to Samuel was removed from his horse by way of a bullet to the chest. Samuel hardly had time to register the fact before he heard the sheriff behind him scream out a death cry, a bullet from one of the oncoming riders having dispatched him as well. Now genuinely irritated, Samuel leveled his Winchester at the rider, and downed him, along with two others in quick succession. It was now Kircher and eight men riding against an almost equal number, but Samuel didn't have time to consider asking for a ceasefire. With his mind now fully back at Mine Creek, he unloaded the final three shots in his rifle into three more men. Now the odds were clearly in his party's favor. Withdrawing his Dragoon from his hip, as well as his Peacemaker from the shoulder sling that he'd had the good foresight to get from the jail when he had gotten the horse, he cocked the triggers back on both and waited, praying that the oncoming riders would realize their numbers just wouldn't cut it...

If he could only be that lucky...
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A glimpse of what to come

Post  Mr. Pearse on Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:49 am

Mr. Pearse rode the battlefield. And where he went, death followed with him.

The bloodshed – briefly abated by the radiance over New Bethlehem – had recommenced with a vengeance. When the raiders had attacked, they had done so indiscriminately. When Pearse’s men had returned fire, they had done largely the same. As a result, the remains of a handful of women and the elderly could be spotted among the mass of fallen.

What children there were had escaped with the remaining noncombatants, routed by the gunfire and terrified by the flash. Of these clumps of survivors, some would wait out the battle, while others would strike out for Santa Anna on their own. While some would make it, many others would not.

Moving at a steady trot, the Irishman’s horse stepped gingerly among the dead and dying. The air was pungent with smoke and animated by gunfire. Riders pirouetted with their respective opponents, while those on foot ducked desperately from one position to the next, seeking cover where there was none. The yells of the victors and screams of the dying rang out between blasts, and combat as a whole consisted of occasional shots punctuated by frequent prayer. It was utter chaos, and Mr. Pearse was right at home.

As the Irishman navigated the hilltop-turned-warzone, a part of him rode in the landscapes of battles long past. His horse’s hooves traversed the earth of the Territory, but they also fell upon the plains of Antietam and the deep trenches of Petersburg. There was nothing like an occasion when men contested each others’ existence with arms, and it was an occasion which Pearse relished. Bullets sped by him with breathtaking nearness, but the Irishman hardly noticed. By now, his fear had drained away; all that remained was the contest, and the means by which it would be decided.

Two enemy horsemen broke away from the main encounter, their sights set on the man in black. One raised his rifle and fired; the shot went far wide, expelled at a gallop from a range of one hundred yards. The other opened his mouth, bellowing through the din.

”Your reckoning has come, Pearse! Stand down, or – ”

Whatever alternative the Santa Anna man had in mind, he never got the chance to offer it. A bullet pierced through his brain, dropping him cleanly from the saddle. In the breadth of an instant, Mr. Pearse had shifted the LeMat’s barrel from the loudmouth to his partner. If this other assailant had any change of heart, he had no time to follow through; the Irishman’s revolver sang again, and he too, was dead.

Pearse permitted himself a dark smile. He had once been notorious for his dueling prowess, but even at the height of his ability, he had never sunk two perfect shots in a second from nearly three-hundred feet away. Something had changed; he wasn’t yet sure what it was, but he knew it was for the better.

As the sounds of scattered combat began to subside, Mr. Pearse spied the final enemy offensive: eleven men, pitched against an equal number of his own. Stirring his horse to a gallop, the Irishman rushed toward the fight, smile still clinging to his lips.

And as he rode, the vision in his scarred left eye – displaced by the New Bethlehem brilliance – began to swim with new and startling revelations. Blinking through the whirling smoke of the battlefield and present, Pearse was able to catch a glimpse of what lay beyond.

He liked what he saw.
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Misgivings and Surrender

Post  Ethan Ramey on Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:34 pm

Two Cents was a quick draw, and it proved to almost be his undoing. As he came into range of Pearse's party, he tightened the grip of his thighs and bent one arm at the elbow as a prop for his rifle. The action was complete and the shot fired before his mind caught up, but it did so in time to watch a young woman clutch the side of her face and keel.

His face fell and he hesitated for a moment, but only a moment. He then steadied his gun and fired another shot at someone he was most certainly comfortable killing, seeing as they were coming at him with what seemed to be a shovel. The shot went wide and the man, in a desperate attempt, drew back and slung the shovel like a javelin. Two Cents ducked and cursed and traded his rifle for a pistol. His next shot didn't miss.

As the wild melee and gunfight continued, he saw more of the same: women, children, men armed with shovels or picks or nothing at all. And he realized it was no fucking raiding party he was fighting, but all the same, they were in it for their lives and he didn't intend to die today.

And then he registered the full impact of his actions, as his eyes swept across the entire field of battle. Pearse's main party was ahead of them, not in their midst. The men that were now attacking, as well as the casualties, had been fleeing north from the initial gunfire.

And no sooner had this thought settled than the sun exploded; at least, that's how it seemed. Light filled the hilly terrain until the eyes felt blind and the mind mad, and then vanished. An accompanying quake set the ground to trembling, and his eyes cleared to find that a town (That's east, so it must be Bethlehem) was burning on the horizon.

But anger and adrenaline were not weakened by the brief repose, and the fighting resumed anew. A small band rode out to meet Two Cents' gang, and finally they were armed men he would be shooting.

His face set in hard lines while his head fought the knowledge of his actions, he met the group head on. One of the men was a remarkable shot, and much of his gang was dead and gone before he knew what happened. He fired off a few but, though he would never admit it, his misgivings over the situation sent his hand just wide enough each time to make him less of a threat.

And then there were seven of them, and six, and five. The battle slowed and halted, and Two Cents, with his four remaining men, surrendered swearing.

Until one of them screamed all the vulgarities his father had taught him and charged. He was dropped in a moment, and their number was four.

Two Cents stood at gunpoint, hands in the air, and didn't give the enemy the chance to speak.

"No more, fellers. Today we're fucking butchers, and I'm not sure what's happened but I intend to find out." He whispered this over his shoulder before turning to face Pearse, who was approaching at a gallop.

"I don't know what you had intended for Santa Anna, but I doubt it was raiding what with women and children riding with you. But fuck it, Pearse, you know how it looked, and you know what we've done for it. Good people are dead on both sides, and I swear to holy high heaven that I won't be held responsible. Whatever the fuck you were doing, those lives are on your hands. Now where the hell's my sheriff?" He had to yell to be heard over the gallop of Pearse's mount, but he felt like yelling anyway. He also wanted to say all he had to say before Pearse shut him up - possibly for good.

At least I done that.

***
His tears had dried and so he sat, the Indian watching over him, as the sounds of battle heightened and then started to rapidly fall. He tried to occupy his mind with somewhere else, but the gunfire residue in the air, seeping into the cabin like a poison gas, kept bringing him back to the overwhelming present. His hands shook slightly and searched on their own for something to touch, to keep busy. They found his timepiece, still wrapped around his arm and still not counting. His eyes followed his hands, observing the timepiece like an old friend trapped in this with him.

He removed the top and looked at the insides. They were more of a mess than ever, with little cogs tumbled out of place and a few missing. And still that damned light was in his eyes, and he couldn't seem to make it leave. It left small transparent strands superimposed on his sight, dancing slowly, like little hairs caught in a tear that refuses to fall. And as he looked at the clockwork insides, those little strands started lining up, forming a small wireframe image around the parts.

Ethan blinked to make the lines go away, but they wouldn't. He fixed his eyes on something more distant (the Indian's calf, a few feet away from him) and didn't notice the afterimage as much. But still it was there, dancing and forming little shapes, like light sometimes does on closed eyelids.

But he chose not to see it. He attempted to look past it, and waited for it to clear, as the afterimage always does.

Then he noticed something else: a man yelling. But only one man, and only one yell; the fight was over. And then silence again, for minutes longer. And, finally, footsteps outside, as the gentleman of the west returned for him.
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Dopo l'Inferno

Post  Seth Ruggeri on Sun Feb 28, 2010 1:39 am

Burning…

Everything around her, the air, the ground, all of it burns. Within the all-encompassing darkness, there was only pain and heat. Moira slowly begins to regain her senses. She opens her eyes, but for what? The darkness still devours everything around her, no less blind than when she slumbered in the realm of the unconscious. Her sense of smell begins to return.

Ash…

The scent of scorched wood pervades the air. Even the smell burns, singing her nostrils as she takes in a deep breath. Moira tries to move. Her legs feel like lead, heavy and immobile beneath the smoldering debris. She tries to move her left arm. The limb obeys the command it has been given, and claws at the burnt ground. Moira clutches the soil and presses it tight against her hand.

Cinders…

With a pained sigh, Moira tries using her right arm. Nothing. No movement, no feeling, absolute anesthesia. She thinks back to light. What was she doing before the apocalyptic flare engulfed everything.

Flora…

The child. Where is Flora? Where is Seth? Where is anyone? For now, she is all alone with only the scattered wreckage and warm mantle of air to keep her company. Am I going to die here? No. I have to survive. I want to live. Moira tries to move her left hand once more, reaching for the debris that made up her hellish coffin.

Warmth…

She pulls at the burnt planks and framework. The pain she feels is horrendous. Charred splinters of wood sink into the girl’s hand as she attempts to dig her way out of the dark, horrible hell. I’ve got to get out of here. I’m NOT going to die here! Fighting through the pain, she claws through the debris. Got to survive. I’ve got to get out of here! Piece by piece, Moira continues her desperate search for freedom. Her struggle is not fruitless.

Light…

At last, an exit. Moira was within reach of salvation, the darkness slowly giving way to the light outside the wreckage. With one final lunge, she breaches the infernal barrier. Free from the debris, Moira surveys her surroundings. The town in which she arrived no longer existed. What lay before her now is a hellish landscape of fiery fragments of what were once saloons, shops, and homes. Ash falls like snow on the scorched earth, painting the arid soil a pale white.

Moira looks at her right arm, or rather, what was once her arm. The limb that she was unable to move earlier was now an amalgam of charred flesh and shattered bones, piecemealed together by shards of razor sharp glass and congealed blood. Hesitantly, she touches the husk of an appendage with her left hand. Nothing. The gruesome wound is numb, without the slightest sensation of pain. Moira desperately tries to cry, but no tears flow from her eyes. She tries to scream but no sound echoes from her mouth.

There is only silence.

She looks at the wreckage behind her. Slowly, Moira limps her way thorough the remains of the inn, searching for any sign of life. She stops dead in her tracks as she remembers her reason for being here in the first place. Flora. Where was the child? Moira begins to scavenge the remains of the building in desperation. She has to be alive. She has to be here somewhere. Oh God, please let her be okay. Piece by piece, fragment by fragment she continues to search all the while prating in her head that no harm had befallen the infant.

Moira feels her strength beginning to fade. Fighting through the pain, she continues to scour the wreckage. Her left arm begins to bleed more and more as she sifts through debris. She finds uncovers the remains of the bed the child had been sitting on earlier. Then she saw her. Flora’s body rests on the tattered remains of the cot, motionless.

No. No no no no no no NO! She has to be alive. She can’t be dead! Moira picks up the girl’s tiny body and holds her close to her chest. Please. Please Flora. Don’t die…

The child remains motionless.

Moira falls to her knees. Once again, no tears flow from her eyes. Never before has she ever wanted so hard to cry. The child she had taken care of for so long. The little girl that Seth had left in her care, the infant that was entrusted to her by Rosa before she passed away, now lay silent against her breast. I’ve failed. I’m sorry Seth. I’m sorry Rosa. I’ve failed you both. God… how I want you to forgive me, but I know that I’m not worthy of such forgiveness.

The silence is broken at last.

Flora emits a faint cough, soft but still audible. The child begins to squirm about in Moira’s arms. Slowly, she looks at her caretaker, and begins to cry. Moira clutches the child closer to her and tries to comfort her. Thank God, you’re okay Flora. I thought I’d lost you. Oh thank God you’re okay. Moira rises feebly to her feet, still clutching the crying infant all the while. She steps out of the smoldering remains of the inn and walks out into the streets.

As she walks the lonely streets, her body begins to tense up. Moira’s vision begins to flicker in and out of focus with each step. Each breath becomes harder to take and each step harder to take. She looks down at the child. Flora’s breathing has become softer and her crying has subsided. I have to keep going. I have to find help. As she reaches the center of town, Moira falls to her knees, her legs collapsing beneath the weight of her body as if they were made of gelatin. She rests on the warm, dry ground, her vision still fading. Please. Someone. Anyone. Help us. Moira once again begins to fade away into the inky void of the unconscious. As her eyes begin to close and the darkness returns once more to overcome her senses, a small light flickers. At first, the glow is soft and distant but by and by, it grows larger and brighter. In her last moments of consciousness, the light burns more radiant in Moira’s eye, as if the light was trying to sear its way into the very core of her being.

Once more, Moira fades into the realm of the unconscious but no longer is the world a seething torrent of darkness. Now, forever tattooed in her vision, the darkness is replaced, felled by an undying, otherworldly light.
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To Rule In Hell (Le Enfant Terrible)/To Serve In Heaven (The Blind Leading The Blind)

Post  Claude Delacroix on Mon Mar 01, 2010 2:55 pm

***

His father was a great man.

And the world had ended. He was right.

For five years, the whole gathering of the faithful had secluded themselves in the underground chambers beneath his father's house. He had told them the world was going to end. Only he was allowed to go to the world outside. He was holy and incorruptible. He would bring back the meager supplies they all survived on. All 20 of them.

His father was a drunken and cruel man. He squandered the money on whores and whisky until the vision.

A rugged man with high cheekbones and sandpaper facial hair lay in drunken spreadeagle, his body reeking of body odor and the pickling smell of cheap wine. His black hair was greasy and slick, posessing the unpleasant sheen and shine such state would bring. He stared at the starless black sky through half-closed eyes, the bruises and aches from being forcibly refused service at the saloon a distant throb and sting. He tried to crawl back home to the boy, but somehow he'd lost his way. Surely it had nothing to do with the vat of whisky in his gut. He was about to curse the world for turning against him in his prime...His wife for dying delivering the boy...And the boy for being born.

But...

Then he saw an angel.


Five years ago, his father had a vision of an angel. And he recieved a great power. The power of a sinner's persausion.

It had never worked on him. He had his own power. His father could not simply will him to follow. He had to beat the devil from him. Cleanse the demons with fire, leather, and steel. He became his father's second, the heir to all the world he would create.

Then, he secreted them all away in preparation for the end of the world. It was coming. The angel had told him so.

So, after five years..When the first thing he saw in five years from the outside world was the star that had become Little Bethlehem, he welcomed it wide-eyed and smiling from the pit dug under what was once his father's house.

He shared his father's face, thin with high cheekbones and skin that was milky white from lack of sun. The light should have blinded him. It should have burned him like the old house and so many in the streets. It enlightened him. It brought blazing colour to his eyes, fire to contrast with the white skin and raven-feather black hair.

His father's blood was just like his. Red, warm, and sticky.

His father was a dead man. He was his heir.

/***/

Hands? Check.

Feet? Check.

Eyes? Check.

Well, there was that awful glow around everything when he shut his eyes. It was like looking through astral planes again. Everything seemed to swirl and shift in patterns of neon lines on the thin skin of his eyelids. What's more, his whole body felt strange...But there was a familiar edge to it, he had to admit. It was a warm, sizzling feeling that ran through every part and cell of his body.

Everthing important seemed to be attached, thankfully. His fingers were dribbling a few spots of blood and he was sure that he could feel a few cuts elsewhere, but all of that could wait. Right now, he had to get something, anything, to drink. The few sips of gin he' managed to enjoy before the town bloomed like a firey rose now gone, he stumbled down from the saloon's grave and into the scorched and smoldering streets.

He'd survived...Something. The "why" and "how" confounded him, but one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. He could feel the warmth from the ground rise up as he began limping his way through town. He could see bodies littering the streets, the skeletons of women, men, and horses contorted and charred, bits of rags and flesh still clinging to a few as some clung to one another. The sights became a bit too much for Claude as he walked, and he had to avert his eyes.

A functioning water pump just outside the town's inn, or ex-inn, served as a answered prayer for Claude. He began to double his speed, his legs aching at the demands he made of them.

"Oh, thank GOD!" he croaked as he leaned on the pump, grasping the handle in desperate hands. Just as he was about to begin drawing up the water, his eyes fell on a figure closer to the inn. It looked like a woman...That is, the light covering of ash made it look feminine. Giving the pump a longing look and giving a inward glance of hate at his own consience, Claude made his way to what proved to indeed be a woman. What's more, a woman and a child that had cried so hard that it's wails had softened into almost whispering sobs. One survivor...he thought as he looked at the child. He pressed his sore and aching fingers to the woman's neck, and then smiled faintly. Two survivors.

After a bit of work on his part, he'd managed to pull the two back to the water pump. He drank his fill, then splashed a small amount on the woman's face.

"Time to wake up, I'm afraid." he said as he watched the woman's eyes flutter open. "I hope you weren't having a good dream."
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Claude Delacroix
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To Santa Anna

Post  Mr. Pearse on Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:02 am

From a hundred yards and closing, Mr. Pearse watched the end of the gang from Santa Anna. The deputy Kircher’s rifle belched fire six times, and – like clockwork – six men tumbled and expired. By the time the Irishman reined his horse to a halt in front of the four surviving captives, the fight was over.

To any observer, Pearse must have been a foreboding sight. He emerged from the thick smoke at a gallop, tendrils of vapor whipping behind him. His jacket rippled as he tore through the hot desert air, and his black, wide-rimmed hat was pulled low across his brow. His revolver stood poised and ready, and his eyes glinted with deadly alertness. The smile fixed upon his face was wreathed with animus.

To the men from Santa Anna, Pearse’s arrival also cast a cloak of deep despair. One prisoner moaned, while two others unconsciously averted their eyes. Yet despite his companions, the last man managed to spit out a challenge. His hard features betrayed fear – but they betrayed strength, too.

At Two Cents’ words, Mr. Pearse stopped, and his smile disappeared. When he spoke, his tone was icy, and his gaze bore heavily on his challenger’s haggard face.

“I’ll not judge you by intent or design, man of Santa Anna, but by deed.” At this, the Irishman’s arm swept across the scene before them. Bodies dotted the ground, and the sounds of battle had been supplanted by the weak cries of the dying. Mr. Pearse’s merry circus of followers were now mostly wounded, fled, or gone entirely from the earth.

“By the law of the Badlands – by *my* law – you are responsible. I rode for Ethan Ramey’s, and I was met by treachery. You’ve attacked me without provocation, and stolen lives which need not have been wasted. We will ride now for Santa Anna, where our wounded can rest – ”

“ – an’ ours too, goddamnit! The stench a’ blood around you is just as heavy – ”

Mr. Pearse’s green eyes flashed, and Two Cents fell silent despite himself. “For Santa Anna, where our wounded can rest and your town will receive its reckoning.”

The Irishman’s attention turned to the nine surviving warriors, their numbers augmented as weary guns trickled in to join them from other parts of the hilltop. Pearse’s eyes lingered on Samuel; a damn dangerous fighter, that one. Two Cents remained quiet, his resistance tried and done.

“Disarm and tie the prisoners. Jeremiah, gather the stranded. The rest of you – be prepared to ride in an hour’s time.”

As Pearse moved to depart, the man Jeremiah stopped him, his voice tremulous. Like most of Pearse’s hands, he was young – life expectancy in such a vocation was rarely good – and he looked to be comfortable with a firearm. Right now, however, his tanned face was drawn with fear. His eyes were fixed on the southern horizon.

“Boss – what’s goin’ on? Somethin’ came roarin’ out from Little Bethlehem. The people…d’you think – ”

A flicker of anger passed through the Irishman’s features before instantly vanishing. As the adrenaline of battle left him, his relaxed manner – and implacable courtesy – were slowly returning. Jeremiah was a useful and loyal servant. He wasn’t insubordinate; he was scared.

“Such concerns are for now beyond our control. For now, we must focus on those deeds most worth doing.” Pearse’s gaze moved to rest on the crumpled body of Bloomer, fallen just outside the Ramey cabin. Although he did not indicate one way or another, he now likely understood how the bloody engagement had begun. ”Jeremiah, it’s long been my belief that fate guides us in ways necessary but unseen. Answers – be what they may –appear only with the fullness of time.”

Another hired gun spoke, his tone pleading for reassurance. “Mister Purse, it wasn’t – it wasn’t the Rapture that happened, was it?”

Pearse’s attention shifted southward, focusing on the pillar of ash that was even now falling back to earth. “There’s few moments I’ve been more convinced of what lies beyond and above. Yet, if what we’ve seen is Rapture come to ground, I believe it marks not an end, but rather something wholly new and wonderful.”

And even as Mr. Pearse spoke, the images in his scarred left eye twisted and blurred. For him, the effects of the blast had been powerful and immediate: it was like his head was hovering in front of a brilliant flame, just inches from his closed eyelids. As the ethereal strands scattered and rearranged themselves, the edge of Pearse’s consciousness felt confronted by a new and promising language. The trick, of course, would be figuring out how to read it.

***

The Irishman returned to the cabin, ebony-plated cane again safe in hand. Stepping over the wet floorboards, he stopped in front of the crouched form of Ethan Ramey. Upon his master’s arrival, the Indian rose swiftly to his feet, grimacing silently as the pain in his shoulder reignited. Meanwhile, the master himself stooped slightly, offering his hand to the dazed doctor.

What conversation that followed was memorable to neither man. For Pearse, it was the stuff of small talk, recited for thousands of people in thousands of different situations ad naseum. For Ethan Ramey, still shellshocked and stunned by the brutality of his afternoon interruption, it would take a few more hours for his memory to really start working again.

What was memorable, however, was the fact that such small talk took place. In the aftermath of a bloody battle and dazzling flash of light, the Irishman spent their brief moment inquiring as to Ramey’s general health and whether the doctor had experienced any luck with that half-opened timepiece. Pearse’s purpose for finding Ramey was not mentioned. There would be many miles yet for such conversation.

After a few minutes, satisfied as to Ramey’s lack of serious harm, Pearse left. He departed asking only that Ramey “do what he could” for the Indian.

Meanwhile, the wounded brave continued to stay by the doctor’s side. Stoic as ever, the Indian nevertheless lent a helping hand as Ramey dottered about gathering his few belongings. He did not know exactly where he was going – only that it might be some time before he managed to make it back.

And a short time later, tied alongside his three surviving companions, Two Cents watched silently as Pearse’s men carried the bodies from Ramey’s cabin. First came Andrew Millard, his face twisted into a permanent mask of surprise. Next came Dusty Magoon, his clothes soaked with his own blood. Last – for who else could it be? – came the sheriff Woodrow Millard, his neck a jagged stump. Their corpses were thrown amidst others from the failed Santa Anna offensive. Some would be burned, but many others would simply be left to rot, denied the rite of a good Christian burial.

As Two Cents watched the ghastly procession, he vowed to never forget it. Although his expression remained impassive, his thoughts swam furiously. He said a silent farewell to each of his three friends, and set about manufacturing his own dark vows for the man most responsible.

***

In the span of an hour, Pearse’s men were recovered and ready to travel. The Gentleman of the West had been a flurry of activity, making careful account of the losses inflicted on both himself and the enemy. He had directed efforts to recover the wounded and fled, with the hope that such noncombatants could make their own slow way to Santa Anna. Most importantly, the he had drafted a brief note, giving it to a messenger with direction to telegraph it back to his ranch and to not stop for anything.


FROM PEARSE < STOP >

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE BETHLEHEM < STOP >

SEND IMMEDIATE FORCE TO SANTA ANNA < STOP > NO LESS THAN FIFTEEN WITH DOCTOR < STOP >

SECURE THE CANNONS AND AWAIT MY ARRIVAL < STOP >



Directing his horse to the front of the assembled group, Mr. Pearse scanned the ranks. Amid the half dozen other tasks that the original band from Little Bethlehem were now pursuing, the Irishman had selected his twelve best remaining fighters. Additionally, Ethan Ramey, Samuel Kircher, and the four prisoners made the party’s total number eighteen. Pearse noted with regret that the Italian was nowhere to be found; presumed missing, he suspected that Seth was more than capable of looking after himself. Their paths would cross again – it was only a question of when.

Mr. Pearse’s words were brief, but the gravity they carried was unmistakable. “Our enemy set upon us in treachery, but they’ve been repelled and ended. Santa Anna is depleted but hostile: if we must ride for it, we must do so in force. What’s more, should those survivors of Little Bethlehem seek a new sanctuary, Santa Anna must be ours so such sanctuary can be assured.”

Despite the recent battle, the men before Pearse acknowledged their leader with enthusiasm. The prisoners, meanwhile, looked dejected and resigned. He continued. “We’ll ride through the day and stop only at town's edge. Come dusk, Santa Anna will contend with that same seed it sowed!”

At this, the party gave a collective shout and began its breakneck sprint toward its destination. As Pearse had observed, fate had a knack for guiding men in ways necessary but unseen. Nearly twenty armed men now descended on Santa Anna, driven by vengeance and compelled by a man of insatiable appetites and aims. Their questions had become legion.

Their answers, however, remained a scattered few.


Last edited by Mr. Pearse on Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:48 pm; edited 2 times in total

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I am the master of my fate;
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Mr. Pearse
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Departure

Post  Ethan Ramey on Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:51 am

"Treachery, my unholy ass."

Two Cents spit. The motion unbalanced him in the saddle, and the man riding beside him slapped him upright. Two Cents growled his disapproval and wrestled with the rope around his wrists, but to no avail. It was hard enough staying upright with hands tied and the last thing he needed was some heavy-handed man knocking him around more.

As the sprint had started, his mind had raced. He considered every possibility of salvation for Santa Anna, but the list was shorter than his - well, it was short, so it was. Now he rode sullenly, his head resting on his chest for a semblance of comfort. The grizzle-growth of his chin scratched him between his open collar.

A knife and a piece of glass will put that to rest, if'n I'm allowed such comforts again.

Then he remembered Woodrow Millard and what might've been the longest handlebar mustache in the West. Santa Anna was now without a sheriff, and he found himself short a dependable friend.

Hell, maybe it's time to let it grow out. He was both saddened and amused by the image of himself with a drooping, gunslinger's mustache, and a half-hearted chuckle escaped him. The man beside him hit him again, and then once more for good measure. Two Cents kept his chuckles to himself for the remainder of the run.

***
The Indian received no help from Ethan, but he did not complain.

Ethan's senses were still hard-pressed to keep up with the commotion. He could not recall what words had passed between himself and - what was the name? - Pearse. Mr. Pearse. The only thing he was aware of for the next hour was the Indian's constant proximity. When the troupe left at a galloping fit for Santa Anna, Ethan was thrown onto a strange horse (his had caught a stray bullet during the battle and now lay before the cabin, rotting on a tether) and driven like cattle.

Or sheep, he thought. It was the first clear thought in his mind since the commotion had begun. He glanced up and finally found things to be in focus. The Indian was still near him, riding hard. He rode back and to Ethan's left, but he stared directly forward. Still, Ethan felt watched.

He's a sheepdog. The thought was funny, but Ethan didn't notice. His eyes turned to the front, and he noticed that he was near the head of the pack. Very near, in fact, as Pearse rode only yards away.

And so he's the shepherd. Ethan felt like he was seeing people for the first time. His sense of attachment to the Indian melted instantly, and he found himself intrigued by the man leading the party. He had yet to make sense of the afternoon's events, but he remembered a few details in sudden, startling clarity, and they all concerned Pearse.

He wasn't sure if the shepherd was protector or destroyer in the whole mess, but he resolved to find out. Strength, however, did not come with his resolve. Instead, he felt a stab of intention, and immediately began to formulate the right approach to the situation. A strong man would simply ride up and demand answers, but Ethan was not a strong man.

He was, however, a polite and educated man, and Pearse seemed the sort as well. Still, he found Pearse to be somewhat unapproachable. The man towered at the head of the party, and Ethan felt as if he were withering in contrast. And then there was the feeling of anger - and excitement - on the air. People yelled and whooped and cheered, and Ethan withered more.

He resolved to get answers from Pearse... but later, and only if Pearse was willing to give them. Indeed, he was afraid of the trouble that had already struck, and didn't intend to create more.

As he considered all this, the sun fell. And, as it hovered on the horizon directly before them, it burned the silhouette of Santa Anna into view.
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Ethan Ramey
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Re: Big Trouble in Little Bethlehem

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