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  #61  
Old May 2nd, 2024, 01:00 PM
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The Stray House
She Never Liked Goodbyes




~~ Cooking in the Kitchen ~~

Ezra said it best. This here was a resurrection party. And sure, it weren’t one thrown in Granny Innes’ name, but ooh, it nonetheless lifted a lotta spirits tonight, knowing a missing Stray weren’t that far gone.

In that moment, home felt a little more right, Family.

‘course all the crying and the hugging and touchy-feely goodness, well, it sure worked up a real appetite. So, it weren’t long before everyone found themselves crowding back into the kitchen. Stomachs growling and mouths watering. And Kermit threatening to eat one of them fancy little rocks off of Nell’s dress if ‘he didn’t get his helping first!’

The spread Brody laid out truly was a blessing from Granny herself.

Tender pork chops. Juicy green beans. Crackly corn bread. There was even mashed taters, peeled to perfection by J. Windell, and salted and peppered by Leslie’s delicate touch. All smothered in butter, too. ‘cuz what doesn’t taste better with a dollop slathered on top? MnnnnMn. Yes sir. It was truly a feast to behold, especially for those who hadn’t had good home-cooking in a dog’s age.

The seating arrangement was the hardest part to figure out, though. Mostly ‘cuz that old redwood table weren’t as big as they remembered-- no longer were The Strays and the Innes’ Kids crawling over the counter to grab their fixin’s. Now, everybody sat elbow to blow, knee to knee, squeezing in where they could without tipping over a salt shaker or that damned pitcher of syrup Kermit pulled out of the fridge for his chops.

But eventually, peace is found here at the dinner table, just in time for family gossip.

Kermit sat himself right smack dab between Ezra and Brody. Oh of course, he elbow shoved Brody, playfully muscling in his territory, before he tried to swipe a green bean from Ezra’s plate with his poaching fork. It is only when he eyes fell on Nell, who sat across from him, that Kermit asks, “So, uh, big city, huh? Whatcha do out ‘ere? Ya an actress? S’why yer dressed so fancy?”

“Thank you, Kermit! I have been dying to ask myself,” Maisie pours herself a generous portion of whiskey into her glass. “The moment you showed up in a sequin dress, all I could wonder is whether you’ve made yourself a made girl. Unless...” Maisie eyes sparkle. “Do you have yourself rich beau dotting on you?”

“Ooh hoo! As if! You’ll have an easier time gettin’ a hellcat wed than seein’ Nell hooked up with anybody!”

“Just ‘cuz she shot you down when we were kids doesn’t mean she’s out of the romance game.”

Kermit guffaws, and then immediately arms himself with a fork, pointing it accusingly at Maisie. “That’s big talk for the woman who’s still dodging Mrs. Abernath’s son! He’s real nice, Maisie. Why don’t you give him a chance.” Waggling his brow, you bet your biscuits Kermit knew he was playing with fire by suggesting such a thing.

Colin just shakes his head at the nonsense on the other side of the table. Splitting some corn bread in half, he hands the other slice to J. Windell. “How’s ‘singing been?” A simple question which would no doubt get a simpler answer from J. Windell, but such was the way of the conversation between these two quiet men. They didn’t mind the quiet between words. That in itself was a comfort for old souls like them.

The same could be not said for Duncan, who was certainly in amicable spirits thanks to the food served. There’s a continued softness in his mannerisms as he politely folds his jacket over the back of his chair, and unbuttons the cufflinks on his sleeves, so he could roll them up proper-like. All the while, he drinks in the aroma and the sights of tonight’s dinner. Geniunely impressed by what Brody accomplished, especially with... well... how he’d been living as late.

"Have you taken up cooking lessons?" Duncan asked in a way that was not meant to be condescending but still wound up sounding little bit snoopy from how he examined just how thoroughly cooked the chops were.

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Last edited by Strangemund; May 3rd, 2024 at 05:48 AM.
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Old May 9th, 2024, 03:38 PM
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J Windell answered Colin immediately.

"Interrupted."

He started to eat something, but stopped himself, thinking that those crowding the table might think he meant because of the non-funeral.

"Had a couple jobs. Took me half the season."

Everyone around here knew that first frost ended good ginseng gathering for the year every year. They would know what he meant. He then reached for a forkful of something well cooked.

They will ask you what jobs. Just mention the radio. Don't mention the gun-

Duncan asked of cooking lessons. Didn't talk about Granny. It was the catching up part of the day continued. J Windell looked over at Kermit, then figured he had something to ask everyone that didn't leave town.

"When did they gravel up the badger hole... exactly?"

The words hit the air, and then he thought he'd already asked that question today.
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Old May 9th, 2024, 07:51 PM
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Nell opened her mouth to speak-- to automatically start the well-practiced mystical sales pitch that got her so far in civilized circles.

But she stopped.

This was not a civilized circle. This was family.

It was odd -- uncomfortably so -- to realize that for all she had daydreamed about showing off her new lifestyle, rubbing her success in their faces, she now felt hesitant to do so.

Maybe it was the solemnity of the occasion, or maybe that nonsense about absence making the heart grow fonder was true, but for all her old feelings of not measuring up to the rest of the family (by blood or anything else), she now just felt... right. The thought of bringing up her current scam that Granny most likely would heavily disapproved of made her feel... ashamed..

Well, damnation in a handbag. All that trouble for nothin'.

No. She'd tell them. Later. Maybe. After.... all of this. (Oh, Granny is gone but she's still here downstairs and Keira was gone but is here again and everyone is here again but different and still the same and why hasn't Granny been buried yet)

No. Kerm and Maisie asked a question. Time to do what Nell did best: Saying a lot by not saying much of anything.

"Actress?" she echoed. "Oh, I wish. Nah, I just got lucky. I guess big city life just suits me!"

Ok. Good. Now to phrase her current career into something less Nell and more legitimate so that no one would ask questions, and--

And J Windell comes in with the perfect out! Thank you, Windy!

"Yeah, hey, I saw that on the way in!" she said, jumping on the conversational bandwagon. "That place was practically sacred ground for all us holler kids! What happened?"
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Old May 13th, 2024, 04:03 PM
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By the time they'd piled into the kitchen, trying desperately to make the dinner table sufficient space for 10 full grown adults in a space that had been cramped when they'd all been kids, Kiera was keenly aware that she hadn't eaten since the day before. She'd been too restless, too nervous, to think about eating during the ride into Passelbranch, too anxious by far to consider finding something edible in town. Skipping meals was another bad habit of her youth, rearing its head when the past was, at last, inescapable. Luckily family had come to the rescue once again.

It was hard to believe that Brody Whitt had managed to cook the spread before them, even if he'd had assistance from Duncan and Windell. They were an unlikely trio to manage a spread that would make Granny proud, but they'd managed it and then some. Brody had been up to other things than getting into and breaking up fights since Kiera had left, it seemed. She'd found herself seated between Colin and Nell, naturally, even if Colin managed to crowd out a good chunk of the table on his own Kiera didn't think she was ready to be far apart from either of them. Heck, she wasn't sure Nell was ready for that either, Kiera was going to remember that door blasting in until her dying day.

Conversation around the redwood table started slowly, and as everyone loaded their plates it felt to Kiera like the room was holding its breath. So, of course, it was Kermit that broke the silence, launching them into family gossip almost immediately. Kiera took the whiskey after Maisie, copying the portion (a stiff drink was exactly what the doctor ordered after the week she'd had), but she kept her ears open as the pair started grilling Nell. She'd wondered much the same things, but Nell, being Nell, wasn't forthcoming with much of anything by way of answer. Kiera couldn't help the wry smile the formed around the edge of her cup as she took a sip. Nell had always had a way with words, from near her earliest days at the Stray House. Kermit would keel over before prying a thing out of her that she didn't want out there, and despite how much of Maisie had reminded Kiera of Granny, it wasn't likely Maise'd be much more successful. Still, the patented Nell Daniels deflection did leave Kiera curious.

Was it her imagination, or did the mention of Kermit's fort send a chill around the table? Too much a reminder that things had changed, or was she it just something she was expecting to see? She grimaced, either way. It had been sacred ground for the other holler kids, most certainly, blood pacts and all. One of the Innes kids might know...probably not Colin, given the way his attention had seemed to wander since she'd left. (So many questions she still had for him, and he for her, Kiera knew, and she couldn't help but shoot a glance up at him. She wouldn't put him on the spot like that, though. Not here, anyway, but maybe later by the river.) Brody, too, might know: unless it was some kind of busybody acting up, the sheriff would probably have been involved. Heck, hadn't Kermit called Brody sheriff? Another thing that had changed since she'd been gone, anyway. "How goes the life of a lawman, Brody? As exciting as the pulp novels would have you believe?
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Old May 18th, 2024, 09:21 PM
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Round the table
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The big old table weren't quite as big as Ezra remembered but, then again, none of 'em were as little as they were the last time all these strays gathered 'round it. After so much solitude traveling the green hills and dark hollers of Appalachia, the closeness was more than welcome. It fed his soul and just felt right. To be with family and find small pleasures even in dark times, well ain't that what this life is all about?

And the food! The aroma alone held him in its thrall like that funny little Renfield feller from Bram Stoker's Dracula. Simply looking at the spread set his mouth to water like a hound dog outside a butcher's shop. Ezra knew to be quick serving himself around Kermit if he wanted to get one of the choice pork chops or an edge piece of cornbread so he wasn't shy about filling his plate. That's why he let Kermit poach some of his green beans without retaliation, he'd accounted for such inevitabilities.

Ezra tucked right in and immediately closed his eyes and dropped his fork back onto his plate. He slowly chewed a mouthful of succulent pork and sighed in flavorful ecstasy. Finally, he swallowed, washed it down with a gulp of iced tea, and exclaimed "Damn, Brody! You always known how to cook like this?" He knew them lawmen didn't teach cooking between still-busting lessons. Seemed everyone was full of surprises these days.

Soon enough, just like always, talk turned to the same topics boys and girls loved to tease each other about. It didn't matter that they was all growed now, the classics are timeless. He couldn't help but chuckle at Maisie and Kermit's back and forth, even if a tinge of childhood jealousy reared its ugly head at the idea of Kermit courting but he shook it off. All of 'em here shared bonds that were stronger and deeper than any old gold band. There's power in blood, family. Hell, the God botherers wrote whole songs about it.

Windell asked about the old fort and it was nice to see he wasn't the only one so grievously offended by that particular act of blasphemy. "I'm gonna clear out that desecration. Nobody had the right to fill it in." That's twice he promised. Ez picked up the bottle of whiskey and tilted it directly to his lips for a slow pull. The burn felt good but he still scrunched up his face as he swallowed. "That's good, who's distilling these days? The Evers' or them Holloway boys?"

"Anyway, looks like the business of arguing is treating you nicely Dunc, that's a mighty fine suit. Well tailored." Ez winked at Duncan. He simply couldn't resist, you know what they say about old habits.
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Old May 21st, 2024, 06:46 AM
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There was one holdout to the reunion of the Devlin stray to the fold. Brody remained in the hall trying to make sense of what he was hearing. The door, forced off-kilter by the slamming, was no impediment to the words, but Brody's mind was. Why everyone seemed so willing to accept what so clearly wasn't--well, seemed clearly untrue to his ears--was beyond him. Could it be? How? That was the question no one was asking. Sometimes the desire for something was enough to make any impossible thing, well, possible. Maybe it explained some things. Like how no one in any township around had seen a boy matching Patrick's description.

For a second a flood of relief nearly dropped him to the ground like the gut-dropping queasiness of almost falling from a bridge. Giddy. Life-affirming. But temporary. Man, even he was willing to accept it! But rational thinking swept it away again, No, a less palatable but more likely explanation was still wedged in his thinking brain. He didn't have to ruin everyone's good time though. Brody just resolved to watch and make sure Colin didn't get hurt too bad by whatever con was going on. He popped his head around the doorframe and tried to smile. Though he wanted to take everyone in, his eyes were drawn to Kiera Devlin in curiosity. "Supper's ready," was all he said.

*********

It was tough to put aside what went down in Colin's room though the full dinner table did its best. Kermit's elbows landed a few sharp blows and Brody returned fire with a few of his own as he wrestled for space next to him and Ezra. It felt good to be with them all again, some he knew from younger days and some when he and Colin moved on to older games.

Brody thought the food tasted pretty good as he was making it, but the whole plate together was something even better. Duncan and Ezra both asked how it was possible in their own ways and he still didn't have an answer. He glanced down at the floorboards rather than up to the sky to thank Granny. He swallowed hard. "No, I thought for sure I'd be burning the chops or putting out bland cornbread. Let's just call this a one time deal furnished by Granny's kitchen. It felt like she..." If he was going to tear up, he would have then. "Aw, just dig in."

He let the ribbing of Nell and Maisie and Kermit take over then. He let himself really look at the woman calling herself The girl that was Nell. On the surface it was hard to see; she was so different now. But her mannerisms, the way her face moved around so expressive and her eyes twinkled, there was no denying it. Brody glanced at Kiera to see if he saw Patrick there, but he didn't.

J Windle's question brought out a flood a flood of resentment over the treatment of the fort. Ezra's vow was solemn and Brody reached around Kermit's broad back to slap and shake his shoulder in solidarity. He doubted any of them could get in deep enough to clear it out without some child labor, but he would try if Ezra needed it. He looked over to Maisie, "It was weird coming up on the place so empty. Did Granny have any strays these days? Where did they get sent off to?" He found it hard to believe she would have stopped taking kids in but there wasn't a trace of any around. "Oh," he jabbed Kermit in the side. Thinking about how he arrived at the house made him think of the lock. "Who's been robbing you?"

It didn't take long after that line of questioning for one to be directed at him. It was an innocent question with a bit of humor but coming from--what was he going to call the Devlin woman?!--it hit a little too hard and a little too deep. He stopped chewing and his utensils stopped their working. There wasn't a day he didn't wake up and think he was supposed to put on his hat an badge, but most people by now had learned to leave it alone so he could forget during the day. " Don't mind Kermit, ma'am. I ain't held that title for years. But I can't say I didn't hope it was like the pulp novels when I was first starting out." He winked and bypassed and hoped it would just get buried again.

Last edited by UngainlyFool; May 21st, 2024 at 06:49 AM.
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Old May 23rd, 2024, 10:45 AM
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The Stray House
She Never Liked Goodbyes




~~ Cooking in the Kitchen ~~

Ain’t no shortage of conversation at the dinner table tonight.

J. Windell’s quick-as-can-be answer about how he’d been doing is met with a knowing nod from the eldest Innes’ boy. Colin is of course curious what them jobs were that J. Windell busied himself with. The lad a mystery wrapped in an enigma, even by Colin’s standards. But you’d have better luck squeezing answers out of a rock than J. “The Wind” Windell, so Colin settled with what he did get.

The matter of whether or not Granny Innes took in more strays over the years is answered by Maisie, who daintily cut her chops into perfect little squares so as not to smear her red lipstick. “We’ve had a few come ‘round. Familiar faces. Bas came to visit two years back. Traded pelts for wards from mama before he went right on back to his cabin. You know how he is. And mama kept up with the Abbotts to make sure Kenny is doing alright. Apparently, he took up butcher work like fish to water! I haven’t made a trip out yet to see him myself-- I’m almost afraid I won’t recognize him. He used to be a sliver of thing.”

Kermit jumped in, adding, “And the Englishman!”

“Mister Harwood, yes,” Maisie is suddenly very focused in the arrangement of her plate, her lips pulled into a terse, polite smile.

“That feller is lucky Granny found him when she did! Get this,” Kermit points at Ezra, a full chop hanging from his fork, “This feller goes up into Broken Pete’s Pass without nuttin’ on him but a lighter and a book. Ain’t a local boy, so nobody even knows he was out there. So, ‘course what else does he do but get lost? Granny found him next morning half-covered in mud and shivering like a cat dropped in a well.”

Shoot.Kermit shudders. “Makes my skin crawl thinkin’ what kind of booger woulda snatched him right up had he been lost further out!”

Duncan just snorts at that. "Have some dignity, Kermit, and leave the ghost stories for the children." Oh you can bet your biscuits he snuck a look at Ezra when he said that-- Duncan well aware that Ezra spent his life chasing haints and all other manner of otherworldly entities. And much like Ezra’s decision to make a living by being a writer, Duncan, well... Duncan’d about it. "The only danger in those woods are wild animals and stupid people."

“Hah! Ya ain’t wrong ‘bout that.”

There’s a twinkle in Kermit’s when Brody rough-houses with him right back at the dinner table. Brody elbows him in the rib, and Kermit fires back by shoulder-checking him, all the while, the two playing a dangerous game not spilling food or drink in their hands as they played. Didn’t matter that they were full grown. Together, they were still kids at heart.

“Nobody yet! But with Nell back in town, I suspect s’gonna be only a matter before she sniffs out my secret stashes.” A joke that turns serious as Kermit has a look on his face as though he remembered something important. Kermit leans back, all sly-like, and cups his hand to Ezra’s ear. His hot breath tickling the back of his neck. “I got some o’ ‘em real Swedish chocolates from Mister Ekstrum fer doin’ his groceries while he’d been laid out. I’ll smuggle ‘em out later fer us.”

‘course as Kermit pulls away, he realizes Brody heard every single damn word. ”...you can’t have any after last time. Disrespectin’ the raspberry fillin’.”

Eventually, the conversation divulges into one topic. An event that had just about all of them burning with curiosity: what happened to badger hole?


“Sheriff Dogood-- the new Sheriff-- filled it up ‘bout three weeks back,” says Kermit, whose chest puffs up the moment all eyes fell on him. As a man who loved to tell stories as much as hear them, he soaks in the attention before he really digs in. “Lotta folks been wantin’ ta fill it up for while. And they did ‘bout uhhh...” He counts on his fingers. “Three years back. But we was all kids once, so ya know them youngun’s dug it right on back out. It sorta became a game between them and the Sheriff for awhile. He filler right on up, and next morn, mountain o’ gravel found on his doorstep!”

Kermit laughs his gut shaking laugh, wiping a tear from his eye. “I wish I’d been there the first time it happened; the look on his face musta been gold. Anyways. Where was I? Oh right. Three weeks back.”

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“It is a muggy day. One o’ ‘em days where ya know a storm is gonna come tumblin’ down the mountain any second. Ya can just smell it in the air. That wetness. I was busy workin’ so this next part is stuff I heard from the old birds at Good Shepherd’s Church but some of the youngun’s didn’t wanna come home just yet. They wanted to keep playin’ until nature had ‘em runnin’ home. Which is what happens. Mountain weather being what it is-- it went from dry skies to a downpour just like that.” He snaps his fingers.

“Everybody heads home ‘cept for one.” He pauses long enough to draw out that tension. “The youngest Holloway didn’t show. Mrs. Holloway is up in a fit ‘bout it. Sends the twins who were with him out to drag him home. Hour goes by and they come back empty-hand. It is startin’ to get dark by that point, so she calls the Sheriff and gets the older Holloway boys to help him search the woods. Twins take ‘em back where they were last playin’ but s’just lotta nuttin’.”

“No footprints ‘cuz there’s nuttin but mud and muck, and there’s no answer to his name. ‘Joseph! Joseph!’ Nuttin’. It is right when everybody is ‘bout to get the rest o’ town in on the search that they hear one of the twins, Mary Lou, scream.”

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“Everybody books it towards her. And they find her, hand all bloodied up, and Joseph deep down in the badger hold with a rusty little pocket knife clutched tightly between his itty-bitty hands. Supposedly he’d stuck her when she tried to pull him out, and whew boy...” Kermit shakes his head. “His paw ‘bout whipped him right there. But then saw just how spooked Joseph was. The boy was shaking. He crawled far back into the hole, dug deeper. Junior said all you could really see o' him that night was just the whites of his eyes.”

“He didn’t talk until they got him home. Said some kinda monster been followin’ him through the woods. Called his name out, like it were one of the twins. And it scared him enough that he just crawled up into the ole fort to hide. Wait it out. Him and that ole pocket knife he found.”

A sorta contemplative look befalls Kermit. His brow furrowed as he thinks right along the rest of you believers about what exactly that young’un heard that night. “Supposedly Sheriff Dogood found Headley’s missin’ hound dog not too far from the spot. Deader than dirt but even then, it looked like it had been real sick. So, they figure it musta been the thing goin’ after Joseph, and the woods just ‘made it sound like the twins’ with how sick it’d been. Or somethin’ like that anyways.”

He sniffs, fiddling with his fork. “But that sorta thing is enough for everybody to sorta... leave the ole fort be after that. So, it got filled up again, with a warning from the Sheriff that if it done got carved out again, everyone’s gonna be helping Mayor Lamb paint his new fancy barn on picture night. Dick.

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Last edited by Strangemund; May 24th, 2024 at 03:58 PM.
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Old May 23rd, 2024, 08:30 PM
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Kiera found Brody's response troubling for oh so many reasons. He wasn't the sheriff? He didn't seem to be involved in law enforcement at all, anymore? That didn't suit him one bit, and she listened closely even as her eyes shifted away uncomfortably. True it had been years since she'd seen him, and true, lots of her memories of the time were more than a little fuzzy, but of all the Strays she'd always looked up to Brody Whitt the most. Colin had been her rock, but Brody had been closer to something of a folk hero. He took care of his friends, he looked out for people, he cared. In a just world, he was exactly the sort of person you wanted as sheriff. He put a good face on it, but deep down Kiera knew whatever had happened was wrong, wrong, wrong. She drank some of the whiskey, trying to cloak her discomfort in the motion. With the burn, it didn't help much. Still, it wasn't like Kiera Devlin was in any place to judge where any of them had ended up.

The "ma'am" was troubling too. It felt...duplicitous, now that the others knew, for Brody to be left outside of her story, and he must not have pieced it together if he was upholding the formality at the dinner table. She'd need to tell him, soon, but it was hardly the time or place while the others were swapping stories and telling tales. Maisie and Kermit were swapping back and forth to share bits and pieces about Granny's other strays. At least one of the names was familiar, tickling the back of Kiera's mind as she cut into her chops, and she couldn't help but be wryly amused by Maise's reaction to the "Englishman". He'd not earned a fan in Maisie Mae, it seemed.

"Have some dignity, Kermit, and leave the ghost stories for the children. The only danger in those woods are wild animals and stupid people."

Duncan's stupidity caught her attention, though, and Kiera froze with her fork midway to her mouth to fix him with a stare. How on earth could a son of Granny Innes come up with that nonsense? It beggared belief. As she resumed eating, part of her noted that Duncan, too, hadn't been present for the revelation of her past. That served Kiera just fine though; the youngest Innes might have grown up and tried his best to become a city man, but the boy's experience was clearly all superficial. Still, Kermit shrugged it off as he always did, and it wasn't long before he was wrestling with Brody and whispering with Ezra, leaving those thoughts behind, for a moment, as Kiera dug into the first family meal she'd had in ages.

The tale of the fort, though....

That spoke to a whole lot of shadows.

Kiera listened along with the others as Kermit told the story. A child lost and alone in the woods was never a good thing, but the boy had been clever, taking shelter in Kermit's old fort, even if it meant he'd jabbed his sister. A monster giving chase, though? Lots of things in the woods that it could be, some mundane and others less so. Granny had told ghost stories of her own. They fit, mostly, and if it was some kinda ghost hitcher Kiera would bet money that's what had killed the Headley's hound. Speaking in the boy's sister's voice was troubling, but Kiera knew well that some of the things out there could mimic voices and more better than any human person. The thought, when it struck her, made her tense all over. It led to her thinking of that night in Pennsylvania when her patron had paid her a first visit, already knowing every last button of hers to push. It hadn't taken long for her to move further north and east out of Appalachia entirely. The memory of it was vivid enough that Kiera couldn't resist pressing herself a little bit closer to Colin, reassuring herself that he was here, and himself, and not a trick of things best left forgotten for the evening. Still, it bothered her. They'd filled in the fort for good? Pure foolishness. She was beginning to suspect that, should she meet him, she would not much care for Sheriff Dogood.

"We should make sure it's cleared out again. Somebody should. Soon. Closing it up was a mistake." Kiera was almost surprised that she'd spoken, her voice hushed at first, so tempted to stay silent and comfortable. She straightened and grimaced anyway, eyes drawn to one of the windows and the woods that lay beyond. The attention this was bound to send her way was already uncomfortable, but if Granny wasn't here she had to speak up about it. She clasped her hands in her lap, looking around at the others. "The Holloway boy was smart. Any other hideaway and he'd have been an easy target for...whatever it was that was out there. But that badger hole? Every kid in the holler has used it at one time or another. Sworn oaths in it. Treated it as a haven. There's power in that, the same way there's power at the Stray House." She paused, eyes shifting toward Duncan. How many of them trusted Granny Innes' "superstitions"? Kiera never had grown out of them, but she'd had firsthand experience. How about the others? How crazy was she making herself seem? "There's more out in the woods than wild animals and stupid people, Duncan Innes. Your mama made sure we all knew that quite well, and I was always a good student."

OOCKiera puzzled over Kermit's story as he spoke, and came up with some insight on a Folklore check with training and Effort!
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Old May 23rd, 2024, 11:38 PM
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J Windell once met an Englishman. A soldier of some distinction what still had his wartime issued Webley Revolver. A Mark VI, crafted around 1916. Quality weapon, known to not misfire.

The repairman's thoughts switched from weaponry to food as he looked down and noticed that the remaining food on his plate was the same now as it was for his last meal with the Englishman. Right down to the quartered potatoes.

Duncan talked of the woods. And stupid people. Poor Duncan, just letting people know that he was okay with getting himself cast away into the basement, permanently breathless.

J Windell waited for Kermit to finish his talk. Good storyteller, never got enough praise for it. Good that everyone let him talk. Finished his plate as he waited for a pause in the conversation.

"Don't forget about the wild people in the woods. They're dangerous...too."

He considered no animal outdoors to be stupid. As for Duncan, well, it had been established how many bullets were available. He'd only need one, he knew the Webley wouldn't misfire.

"So, when do we move the rocks? House painting isn't a threat. Mayor gonna have people do it anyway."
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Old May 28th, 2024, 09:20 PM
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Campfires ain't the only place to share stories y'all
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Oh, Ezra remembered Bas and what he was like all right. More bear than man really, but he meant no harm and kept to himself. That's better than could be said of a whole heap of people at the end of the day. He remembered that Englishman too. Stomping through the woods looking to map out ways to cut 'em up, he was lucky Granny was the one to find him. Them woods would've et that man alive if given the chance, not to mention the bootleggers, cougars, copperheads. Hell, Bas might've even took a few bites himself!

Duncan had to shoot off his opinion on what was out in the dark places, and it got to Ezra the same as it always did. "Just because you want something to be true don't make it so, Duncan. I've seen the spook lights floating through the trees at night and even Andrew Jackson believed in the Bell Witch or are you calling a president a liar? You ain't never seen no haints because Granny's wards kept them well away. I'll grant you that ignorant, hateful people are more dangerous than most beasts and boogers though, and there's far more of 'em."

Ez hit the bottle again and focused on his plate until Kermit whispered in his ear and brought his easy smile back. "The coconut ones are the best anyways. It'll pair well with the tobacco and bourbon I brought from Kentucky." Secrets and covert night-time plans, he felt just like a kid again. Then Kermit went and started up a story and it felt like the sands of time were running in reverse.

He leaned in close, all fascination, as Kermit spun his yarn for the gathered Strays. Sometimes he leaned back to dodge a sweeping arm or elbow as the storyteller gesticulated and emphasized certain parts. As the story built, Ezra's mind was working on stringing threads together. He pulled a beat-up journal from his back pocket and flipped through weathered pages as Kermit got to the spooky parts. A mysterious monster that mimics familiar voices...

Now, Ezra prides himself on having heard every ghost story told even once in these hills and hollers. He'd even snuck glimpses of Granny's old leather-bound tomes she kept away from curious eyes and seen some things never told. There weren't nothing local that could throw its voice or steal one from someone else, Granny's wards kept those kinds away. But, Granny's wards were gone. This would be something new.

Family, if a person's eyes could twinkle well, Ezra's would be putting on quite a show right now. The thought of something new and undocumented was like Pavlov's bell for this amateur author. He was salivating like a raccoon on trash day y'all.

Could this be the work of Skint Tom? He couldn't do much with a boy but did love to sew murderous mischief and mayhem. Often claiming an entire family before he slinks away to whatever bridge or gully he darkens. Ezra's seen his work before, or rather what's left after the fact. Deep down he knows that's who took his Daddy. But no, he just wants to find Skint Tom so he's seeing what he wants to. As the anger melts away from his mind a bit, a passage from one of Granny's books floats into his mind. "The Grave of Lilly Smiles," he spoke the memory to life and nearly spooked himself with his own voice. "From one of Granny's books. A secret place round these parts where a grove of lilies grow. I've looked and looked but never been able to find the spot, It's like the woods itself is trying to keep the secret and guides me away every time."

Are his eyes a little misty family? Nothing stirs up some feelings like a proper mystery for Ezra. Kiera's voice pulled him back to the table. "She's right. That old place is like consecrated ground. Hallowed. It kept the boy safe while whatever was chasing him got his dog and they want to fill it in so nobody can find shelter there again? Hmph, Dogood." He spoke the lawman's name as if it left a bitter taste on his tongue. "Sounds like a character right outta the paperbacks. Well, I'll dig it out. Ain't no Crenshaw ever been scared of a sheriff and we've all done plenty of barn painting."
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Last edited by AnotherDragoon; May 28th, 2024 at 09:21 PM.
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Old Jun 12th, 2024, 03:25 PM
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One would be excused for assuming that Nell held no stock in the supernatural, given her flippancy towards her chosen career. After all, her performances in the spiritualist circles were just that-- performances.

But Nell's relationship with such things was far more... complicated. She grew up in Granny Innes' house. Knew what the woman practiced and preached.

Lived through an incident of her own, which she did not want to unpack right now.

house was gone people were gone ash and dust and the face and the light why are they gone and why are you left behind are you a changeling did you do this you can't play with us unlucky-elenor no-home-nell death-knell death-nell why can't you just be normal

ANYWAY. Back into the Box of Repressed Feelings for all of that. Granny was the only one who listened when she talked about that day. She was the only one who believed. Wouldn't offer much in the way of explanations, but tried to teach her the ways to protect herself, same as she did for all the Strays.

But Nell had been angry. It weren't the haints that caused the most trouble, it were people. And Nell found her own way to fight, twisting words into her weapons. Use what you know, shape it to suit your audience, bait the hook and wait for the bite. And it still worked in Boston. Big city folks don't know the Old Ways. Don't know a haint from a hagfish. But Nell knows enough they want excitement without actual danger, a plaster cast of reality painted in unnatural bright carnival colors. And she can do that. Play a game. Give 'em what they really want: A simple reassurance that everything is fine and that those on "the other side" care about them.

And being back here, reminded that the things that go bump in the night still haunt these less-civilized lands and don't care a fig about who gets left behind, revived an old feeling.

Anger.

Time passed, people changed, but the darkness in the woods and hollers and barrens still stayed the same. And now Passelbranch didn't have a Granny Innes to protect them.


Not even a hole in the ground for kids to call their own.

"We're diggin' that hidey hole back up." she said grimly. "Kids need a place to be safe. To be kids."
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