Story [Prologue] The Belly of the Iron Dragon (Redwater) - RPG Crossing
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Old 11-15-2014, 10:45 PM
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[Prologue] The Belly of the Iron Dragon (Redwater)

The Iron Dragon
''Peacekeeping to be carried out by a pack of paid warriors, no loyalty to any but themselves, and to their coin. We've chosen the best of the filth of society, and in them, we now place our trust - we need more than prayer, on this one, I wager. But you know me, I always hedge my bets, don't I?" ~ Lady Elizabeth Trevelayn, Grandmaster of the Inquisition




The Seventh Day of the Fifth Moon, 283IC
Pre-Dawn, Coldbridge Waystation


Rainfall.

Water pours freely on the lot of you, miserable and cold and wet as you all are, a fine omen of things to come on the day of your fated journey to the Borderlands. You were woken unceremoniously sometime after the witching hour, and were clouds not obscuring them, the stars and moon would still grace the sky with their pale presence. Your commanding officer, Aisling of Hollowbrook, has led the lot you on a circuitous journey. Marched out of your temporary barracks in Sanctum's Low Quarter, still bleary and muddled from lack of sleep, you did not approach the Iron Walk's berth for the Rail as you'd all expected. Instead, under the cover of darkness, you found yourselves leaving the city limits on a three-hour trek across sodden earth and an ill-maintained road to reach the Rail's Coldbridge Waystation. A matter of security, the Headswoman mutters, mentioning that the Templar are skittish and anticipating trouble from elven sympathisers.

Silence dominated for a time, but once the squat grey buildings of the Waystation comes into sight, you're all permitted to mumble and speculate amongst yourselves. Your passage, a black-iron train perched upon the tracks of the rail, sits there in stoic silence as you all approach. Suddenly, the thing flares to life with a terrible groan of metal, and puffs of smoke coil from what some of you could swear are nostrils. For some, this is the first you've ever lain eyes on such technology, and its comparisons to the dragons of times long past are not lost upon you. For others, the train is merely a part of life within Sanctum, and its marvels merely another piece of work appropriated by the Church and her servants.

"Black tidin's." A dour black-haired man states clearly as he lays eyes upon the train, Shepherd Fettel, his scarred and pocked face creasing as he squints at the transport. "Lose a bit of y'soul each time y'ride these, I reckon, there's a reason those Church stiffs walk like there's no life in 'em." The man speaks glumly, and there's a scattering of laughter across the procession, though the look in his eyes makes it rather clear the man wasn't joking - the misery of the weather is getting to everyone.

A shelter has been erected some time in the past, not for your grace, but you all take the respite beneath its thatched roof without much in the way of hesitation. Workers can be seen moving about within the train's few windows, some clambering across the outside of its hull too, apparently immune to the effects of the weather. They lower ramps to the traincars, the sounds of hissing steam and grinding metal starting to overtake the rain, the metal beast rousing from its slumber. Above it all, however, the voice of your commanding officer booms.

She is a harsh woman, towering tall with long flowing red hair turned slick by the rain, a bastard sword strapped to the back of her vaelensteel armour.
"As you may have noticed, Shepherd Grey isn't with us today, he took his chance to leave the operation while he could." Her words reach you all effortlessly, and there is a brief moment where glances are cast about, noting the absence of the man - there'd been too much commotion to realise it before.

"Everyone has that right. But the second you board that train, that's it - there's no turning back. You represent Redwater the second you put that badge on today, ladies and gentlemen, so I expect you to act like it. If you're leaving, do so now, if not...don't disgrace yourself in my presence when we are in the field or you will wish that you hadn't." Her words have all the implied threat of a drill sergeant berating her troops, but in truth, everyone knows how much is riding upon this particular task...and Aisling is not a woman to cross when the lives of civilians are on the line. They don't call her 'Mama Bear' for nothing, after all, some of the men wryly note.

As she speaks, attendants emerge from the train, beginning to load your supplies and mounts aboard. Close attention is paid to Korrin's wolf, Finn, and the young attendants seem to search the dwarf for a measure of assistance before carefully shepherding the creature to take place in the rear traincar with the rest of the horses. One mutters something about the beast eating the others, but is hushed quickly, the lads not wanting to draw the ire of the Redwater. Soon, Aisling starts calling out the names of Shepherds, quickly assigning them their soldiers. She explains briefly that the squads will be six soldiers strong, this expedition, in the interest of added security and to compensate for the missing Shepherd. All in all, you're thirty strong, not the largest deployment the company's ever seen but certainly on the 'bigger' side of things.

"Shepherd Gayn!" the Headswoman declares, catching the eyes of Leani, motioning her forward. "Ironfallow, Hunter, Beckett, Lyn and Watcher Lam - you are assigned to Miss Gayn as 'Briarburn Unit'." She states authoritatively, and you are given a few moments to reorder yourselves, standing at attention now that you've found your places. Some of you have worked together before, some of you are fresh recruits, but at the very least there's a passing familiarity among each of you.
"That's settled, then. But before we depart, there's one last thing." she orders loudly, and the moment eveyone's eyes are on her again, she makes her intentions rather clear. "This is a task of justice. Justice for the dead of Kraigholme, justice for those missing from Sloan, justice for those that chose lives that don't involve raising a blade or shield in the name of living a day longer." Her words hang there, heavy like smoke, the silence only broken by the occasional hiss or clank from the metal behemoth you intend to climb upon.

"We are not there to murder wantonly, to oppress the people, or to abuse our positions. I don't know what your past Headsmans have been like, or if you've ever worked under me, but know this; if you take advantage of your station in Sloan, whether by violence or extortion, you will answer to me. A A method of placing a member of the Redwater on trial, where they are tried by their peers, generally by their acting officer and two other randomly selected members of the company.tribunal is the least of your worries, if you think you can get away with murder because you're on the frontier, you will get frontier justice in return. Is that clear?" She barks, and the lot of you respond almost immediately with a 'yes ma'am!', her eyes scanning the crowd. With a nod, she seems satisfied, and a pair of templar emerge from one of the nearby buildings flanking what looks to be a priest of the faith. Introducing himself as an Illuminator of the Undying Faith, he offers to grant your arms and armour a blessing for your journey ahead, a means with which to carry the Light both within and without.
right-aligned image


Notably, Aisling herself adamantly refuses this privilege, as do a few other scattered souls among the assembled. The priest's weathered face wrinkles at this lack of piety, but is soon replaced by a gentle smile as he tends to the weapons of those who accept the blessing, Shepherd Fettel among them.
"Couldn't bloody well hurt, now, could it?" he explains to his unit, letting out a peal of black laughter, earning him a hard stare from the priest.

Soon, whether you accept or refuse the blessing, you find yourselves boarding the middle traincar. It's spacious, but not overly so, and there's enough room to sit and enough tablespace to play cards or dice or whatever you plan to do to spend the next day and a half trip. What you don't have, however, is solitude - you'll be rather 'close' to your companions on this trip it seems.

Then, a shrill whistle is blown, shrieking into the dark of the pre-dawn as the carapace of the iron dragon shudders around you. Grinding forward, with a screech of metal, you feel the beast pick up pace slowly but surely. Not a few minutes pass before you're streaking along the countryside, the world outside sliding past in a near-blur, some of you taking to staring idly out the window to take in a sight you've never witnessed even if it is marred by the rainfall.

Whether blessings are upon you, or refused, you find yourselves speeding towards what might be the single most important task you've ever signed up for. Whether eager soldier, or reluctant mercenary, your fates are now entwined with another and with the survival of Sloan and the Thornkeep.
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Last edited by Darkling; 11-15-2014 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 11-17-2014, 11:11 AM
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Brodi
It can only get drier and brighter, Brodi had thought as he left the Low Quarter, so it’s going to be a great day. He had grinned up at the murky sky. The clouds had seemed determined to dump every last drop of their misty cargo. Aye, plus we get a free bath this morning! Huh...or maybe they’ll try to dock the bath from our pay?

His mood had in fact grown brighter as the night progressed and a half-hearted moon had limned a gap in the storm. Even as his thoughts improved by the hour, though, his bowels had twisted counterclockwise, bunching in a knot while he avoided certain aspects of the day ahead. The worries had come anyway, like they always do, seeping into his conscious mind. What will we find? Who’ll we have to fight? Which of my friends will we lay in a grave?

Needless to say, Shepherd Fettel’s words are not helpful. The men and women of the Company can be a superstitious lot, what with death hanging over them all and plucking lives away like netted fish. Aye, and that’s no surprise. But really? Steel rails can’t steal your soul, nor can smoke or bellows or the odd cog and grommet. The trains aren’t alive. Dragons, some call them, and Brodi can see their likeness in the squat frame of the engine; smoke trails it in shrouds, lanterns cast light ahead like lambent eyes, and the whole thing whines and rumbles like a beast out of legend. Well, maybe they are a kind of dragon, thinks Brodi. But this dragon has no fiery breath to lay waste to the land. No, it exhales men instead, and women, and we soldiers burst from its belly to wreak all the havoc that brimstone ever could.

As the mercenaries move to form up inside the shelter, Brodi passes among them, slapping shoulders, clasping arms, and offering words of encouragement. Many of the faces are old acquaintances, but some were in with the last batch of recruits. All of them are family. Brodi gathers up his squad when the rosters are announced. He offers Gayn a salute. “Morning, folks,” he says brightly, before the Headswoman starts to speak again.

Brodi nods his approval of Aisling’s words on justice, abuse, and punishment. He had joined the Redwater Company out of desperation. The decision had been made by the growling of his stomach more than any cogitation of his brain. Still, there were many good reasons he’d stayed. Stayed for all these years. Brodi may be a cutthroat, aye, but he’s an honorable cutthroat. That makes all the difference. Where’s the fun in living if you can’t live with yourself?

“I’ll take a blessing,” says Brodi when the priest comes by. “Faith help me, but I’m stuck with this sorry lot of ragamuffins and wet dogs.” He gives Korrin’s beard a tweak for demonstration, chuckling with good humor. “I need all the luck I can get!”

Unhooking the flail from his belt, Brodi kisses the top of its haft and then holds it up for the priest’s ministrations. Then the train moves. Aye, a new day. Maybe my last or maybe not. Either way let's make it count.

Last edited by Sir Alex; 11-17-2014 at 11:24 AM.
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Old 11-17-2014, 11:15 PM
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Julian
Julian appears stoic and compliant as he trudges along with the rest of the crew towards Coldbridge Waystation, but inwardly he curses the chain of events that have forced him into Redwater. Further fouling his mood, the hit of honeydust he'd snuck last night had been a little too strong, the mind melting bliss building past the point of pleasure and careening into the realm of nausea. His stomach was still doing cartwheels and the hammers striking against his skull had only just begun to dull. But he'd pushed through worse pain, and knew that relief was just an agonizing hour or two away.

The troop arrives at Coldbridge Station some three hours later. And as Julian expected, his rioting stomach and pounding head have faded almost completely. He joins the others in seeking shelter from the rain while the train is loaded with supplies, paying little attention to the happenings around him. Hearing his name called for his squad assignment a short time later, he marches over to join with the others, returning his Watcher's "Good Morning" with a simple nod. A quick look over his fellows reveals little, though the name Ironfallow tugs at his memories despite being unable to place it. '... I know I've heard that name before, but I don't remember where. Bloody dwarves all look alike anyway.'

More berating from the Headswoman follows, along with admonishments to behave. When Aisling warns the group against trying to get away with murder due to being on the frontier, the corner of Julian's mouth rises ever so slightly. 'Funny. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought that directed at me.'

When the Illuminator steps forward to bless the weapons and armor of the faithful, Julian excuses himself from the service. 'Never yet seen whispered words make a sword strike more true or let armor stop more arrows. Only the weak would rather trust the words of an impotent old man than in the strength of their own arm.'

Though excluding himself from the blessing, Julian does take the opportunity to note which of his companions choose the blessing and those that refuse it. 'Gotta know who takes their life into their own hands before I know who to trust to protect mine.' He notes with no small amount of displeasure that his unit's own Watcher numbers among those who accept the words of the Illuminator.

Boarding the middle car, Julian takes a moment to look around before sliding into a seat against the window. As the iron behemoth lurches forward, he begins to lay his weapons out on the table in front of him: two exquisite daggers and two finely crafted hand-crossbows. Pulling a dry cloth out from his pack, Julian begins to wipe away the rain from the tools of his trade. 'Let's see how effective an Illuminator's blessing is at preventing rust...'

Pausing at his work some time later, Julian steals a glance out the window, watching the scenery fly past as they raced towards their destination. '... Kraigholme... Life was bad even then, so why do I still feel connected now that it's been laid to waste? ... Bah!' The cutthroat snorts once and returns to cleaning his knives.
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Old 11-17-2014, 11:57 PM
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BeckettThe dripping rain and gloom do nothing for Cameron Beckett's already dour mood.

That isn't entirely an accurate description, of course. Primarily, because the man who has trained with Redwater under the name of Beckett has no more claim to the name than the dwarf standing two feet to his left, and secondarily, because "Beckett" seems quietly upbeat. He's even one of those to chuckle quietly at Shepherd Fettel's best failed attempts to lighten the mood, and despite the shadows under his eyes, the man is wearing the barest hint of a sly smile, presumably at the bedraggled look of his compatriots.

Separating the bemused expression from inner turmoil automatically, "Beckett" spares a moment of attention to at least one upside to the whole proceeding - he is only too glad to be leaving Sanctum. The great black machine is perhaps the least uncomfortable and least tedious mode of transit available, but that did not mean it would be either a comfortable or quick journey. After all, close quarters and idle waiting generally led to conversation, and conversations about even idle topics could easily become minefields.

Easy. Every third volunteer here has secrets. All that needs to be done is to make mine seem comparably uninteresting.

After a quick glance at his newly-assigned and no less bedraggled commander, Gayn, Cameron looks at each of his other fellows, making no attempt to hide the speculative glance at each. Most of the squad is of course human - not unexpected - but there's also a dwarf, who arrived with what looks like a wolf. They have the look of capable warriors, generally speaking. Toe to toe, Cameron suspects he's the least fearsome person in the new squad, perhaps including the squad shepherd herself, who is unsurprisingly the least rough and tumble of the bunch.

At least there's that. If I'd been assigned to some hulking ex-Templar shepherd, this would have become far more tedious. This Shepherd Gayn might understand the concept of subtlety.

As if proving that Cameron's fears were only too close to having been realized, the big man to his left gives the dwarf's beard a tug, in an awkward attempt at joviality. Cameron might have winced, but the templar is stepping up to him already, motioning to the saber at his hip.

"No-sir, if it's all right, I'd prefer to have this blessed." Cameron shrugs the clunky wooden crossbow off his shoulder, grateful that he thought to bring the thing along. After all, the weapon at his hip had once been given to a young squire of the inquisition, one Kenneth Campbell, who had died months ago, and the metalwork of the blade might be recognizable even if the hilt and guard were entirely mundane. The crossbow by comparison is practically new, collected from the Redwater armory only a few days ago and used so far only for practice at the range.

The Templar looks a little piqued at this - likely considering the weapon to be beneath his attentions - but does place his hands on the sturdy wooden haft of the weapon and mutter a quick blessing, moving quickly on to the next person in line.

If it's impossible to be totally unremarkable, the next best thing is to be remarkable for uninteresting reasons. Cameron reminds himself as the priest moves past. Likely his request will be remembered only until someone presents an odd weapon for blessing, at which point Cameron will be long forgotten.

The whistle blows even before the Templar is done, and the beginning of the line begins to move. Cameron shoulders his now-blessed crossbow and falls into line, hoisting his damp canvas pack and hoping that his new horse wouldn't be eaten by that wolf or any other wayward pets. If that pile of coin turns into just another chew toy for someone's war dog...

Still wearing his bemused expression inside the car, Cameron finds a place to sit, easing into the window-seat of a four person bench and table arrangement and setting his crossbow and pack next to himself. The rain-smeared window doesn't really offer a view, of course - just a dark, smudgy blur of city and then countryside - but that view serves as a perfectly acceptable window into the thoughts behind the calm, knowing, almost sly expression reflecting off the glass.

I wonder where she is. Cameron allows himself only the barest moment of thought on a sensitive matter as the train begins to pick up speed outside the city. And whether she got out safe.

Though staring distantly out the window, Cameron lets his ears start roaming the conversations in the car the moment his moment of indulgence has passed. Listening to the conversations of the other Redwater mercenaries is more important to his survival than wondering about Octavia's whereabouts - after all, if Redwater leadership was to be believed, this venture he'd signed up for was likely to require his full attention at least some of the time. It was time to focus on settling into place in the squad, time to allow others to establish the pretense with which "Cameron Beckett" would be engaged.
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Old 11-18-2014, 09:12 AM
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Korrin
Korrin Ironfallow shook his head, grumbling under his breath as Coldbridge Station came into view. Dawn was just starting to kiss the horizon but its lips did little to bring light or warmth to the sky. The landscape remained muted, a pale representation of what might be seen under sun and blue sky, providing a grey palate upon which the black of the locomotive stood out like an ugly bruise. Bleeding steam into the wet morning and assaulting the dwarf’s nostrils with the acrid smell of burning coal and the aftermath of friction upon iron and steel, it was as if the great beast were taunting Korrin with its presence and declaring its superiority.

The wolf, its light black fur spotted here and there with splotches of white, sensed her rider’s uneasiness and halted upon the ridge, stepping slightly out of the way so the other riders could pass. She turned to look at Korrin, hazel eyes like autumn in retreat gleaming in the damp morning.

"Aye, Finn, we’re meant to travel in that thing. I’d rather we gallop for a fortnight and ride ourselves to death, but we have our orders," Korrin said as he took off his glove and nuzzled his right hand into a mass of wet fur behind Finn’s ear, considering his situation for a moment as the rain continued to fall. He never spoke openly of his hatred for the Rail, and there were none, save perhaps for Brodi, that knew of his connection to the technological marvel that stood before them. As he spurred Finn onward toward the station, anger brewing in his belly, he wondered if hours and days could be measured in tons of iron ore and what that might be worth. "Sixty Light-damned years," was his muttered answer as they approached the focus of his ire.

Hopping off Finn, he waved back the handlers as they timidly approached the pair. He was used to the apprehension and most days he would revel in it, maybe making a joke about not getting too close lest one lose his hand or yanking on a bit of fur under Finn’s cheek, causing her to snarl and snap. Letting a forced smile play on his lips as he remembered the Meat, no more than a boy, really, wetting himself last Spring as they rubbed down their mounts, Korrin carefully removed Finn’s barding and saddle, packing them with care into a small crate. But the memory did little to lift his mood, fouled as it was by the Rail, not to mention the time that his companion would be stuffed into a separate car as if she were no more than a common pony.

"Go on, girl," he whispered to her, looking up into her wide eyes full of life despite the way the day had begun, reaching his short arms up to cradle either side of her muzzle as he continued, "you’ll not mind the journey half as much as I will, and I hear the rabbits of Sloan are plump and fat this time of year."

Taking his place beside the others as the Headswoman gave her speech, he scowled at the thought of abandoning Redwater as Grey had. It would take more than a ride on the Rail for Korrin to leave the closest place he’d found to home in many years, but he had to restrain himself from stomping his feet and voicing his disagreement as he saw the priest approach. One more affront like this, and I may join Grey, he thought, knowing it was a lie but letting it simmer in his mind just the same.

"Nay," he spat, "the Light can keep its blessing." He kept his gaze staring forward, not making eye contact with the priest. Frowning. Gods of Fire kissed my blade long ago and have no need of whatever light you think you’ve brought into this world.

He winced as Brodi playfully tugged on his beard. "Damn it, Brodi," he yelled, giving his friend a harder shove than he had intended. "I’ve no time or patience for your childish antics this morning! There’s death to be had where we’re bound for, can’t ye see that?" Korrin stormed off, pulling his water-soaked cloak around Halvard’s Heart, a parting gift of Vaelen armor from his “family” to the north, and boarded the train. There was always death where they were bound – Brodi knew that…they all knew that, and anyone who knew Korrin in more than a passing way could tell the dwarf's disposition had nothing to do with Brodi's shenanigans.

Korrin took his seat and laid his sword, as long as he was tall, across his knees, staring at the steel as the train hummed. His stomach continued to knot, each reverberation of the train's groanings in symphony with pangs of anger and distaste that twirled in his gut like a rotting piece of meat. He tried to get comfortable, studying the faces of his squadron. That one…I know from somewhere, he thought of the man cleaning his blades. But he didn’t pay the memory much attention, instead choosing to seethe at the day and the rain, fuming at the lost years and betrayal that cut their way through his heart like cold steel rails slicing through the soaked morning.
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Old 11-18-2014, 10:54 AM
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Cordelia 'Lyn' Blake
The early morning doesn't bother Cordelia 'Lyn' Blake as much as it might some others, she's gotten a little used to working under such conditions--a good night's sleep is a luxury in a war, especially for one who put themselves on the front line more often than not. If anything bothers her about the morning, it's the promise she made to Valerie last night. It hangs over her head, something she knew she shouldn't have made as she's not sure if she'll be able to keep it. 'Be home soon, a few weeks,' she'd said, 'I'll be fine, I promise. We'll go see the upper tier.'

The walk to the Waystation helps her wake up, and while the rain is a little refreshing, she hopes they won't be stuck in it long. There's little she disliked more at this point then having her black powder get wet, rendering it, and her gun, useless. She has her throwing knives, her crossbows, but neither packed the same 'punch.' Neither felt quite right in her hand. Her thoughts and complaints she keeps to herself, even once others are given the go-ahead to open up. Cordelia's not a big talker.

'Ride back here should have been the last time,' Cordelia thinks as she looks at the train, a little apprehensive. The first time she'd seen it she was in awe, now it's just another machine. Fettel's words make her eyes dart over to him, and she nods slightly in agreement. 'Reckon you can get it back?'

An offer to leave is a little tempting, but only for a brief time; the money matters more right now. Her apprehension, and lack of desire to throw herself into another fight won't keep her belly full. If it had just been her, maybe the offer would have carried more weight, instead she just stands silently, her eyes following Aisling, and her ears listening to every word. Leani's appearance isn't a surprise, though finding she's assigned to the woman's unit, a bit, is. 'She have something to do with this? Owe her enough.'

"Yes ma'am." Blake's words come without much thought on her part, a little second nature at this point. Aisling's orders though more come as a list of things not to get involved in than anything else--reporting it though might give her reason to speak with the woman, something she finds appealing. What isn't appealing? The Templar, the sight of them makes her eyes narrow, though she doesn't watch them long, averting her gaze and just ignoring their offer. Never seemed to matter before whether or not her musket was blessed, it won't matter here. A musket she'd still have if not for her encounter with the brigands a short while back.

The close quarters of the train car aren't a problem, where to go though? That's a question. Considering the slap on her shoulder from Brodi, which was answered with 'could you not?' kind of stare, and his attitude, she's sure standing near him would only make the ride more unpleasant than it had to be. Leani she needs to have words with, but later, the train car isn't all that private.

Cordelia's brown eyes fall on the man who takes a window seat and moves to clean his weapons. It strikes her as the actions of man who might not be too interested in being chatty, and that's good enough for her right now. There's going to be fighting, some of these people will die, not entirely worth getting to know a lot of them. Her Shephard she'll watch out for, if only because she's already enough debts to Val, and getting rid of one would be useful.

As she moves to take her seat next to the man, she does take the time to glimpse where the others of her unit are: Korrin, a man she'd spoken with some, seems to be in a foul mood. She doesn't want to hear about it. The one looking out the window? She'd rather his attention stay there over turn on her. Maybe Leani would keep Brodi busy, best she could hope for.

Quietly, she settles in to her seat, neither asking if he'd mind the company, or offering a hello. For the first few seconds she looks over the exquisite blades and crossbows, then merely pushes some of her brown hair back over her ear and takes out her pistol. She checks the weapon with practiced ease, making sure it hasn't been damaged by the rain that's left her hair and clothes soaked; the white shirt was a bad idea, but between the sash and her armor, only really her arms could be seen through it. The only reason she'd care if someone could see more is if it made them stare.

It isn't long before she shifts uncomfortably though, and ends up placing her own sheathed knives, and crossbows on the table. Her pack she just lets lean against the seat next to her feet, one foot pressed down on it to keep it from getting knocked around due to the motion of the train.

"It's Lyn, you want somethin'?" Any look from her seat-mate, if he gives even a slight one, would draw the words from her lips, no matter the reason, and her tone makes her seem a little agitated.

Last edited by Captain Devonin; 11-18-2014 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 11-21-2014, 02:09 PM
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Julian Hunter
Lyn sitting next to him elicits no immediate response from Julian: he simply continues to tend to his weapons. '... Lyn, I think her name was. Straightforward if I remember correctly. And smart enough to keep impotent religious words offa' her weapons it seems.'

After a few minutes Julian glances at the woman's firearm, before his eyes shift to their owner. 'Hmph. As far as I'm concerned, a wet shirt's wasted on a woman like her. Too tall and too heavy. Not that you can see anything anyway under that armor. ... Not a total waste of a woman though. For a human.'

Though he's only taken a quick glance at his squad-mate, the woman tersely addresses Julian's slight attention with her name and a challenge. "Julian. And nope." He turns back to cleaning his daggers. 'Brrr. Like ice, this one. More likely to be chatted up by the Illuminator from the station. Still, if we're gonna be working together, might as well make an effort to be likable. And it's not like I can clean my weapons for the whole trip.'

Julian's attention remains on his own daggers for the next little while. As he finishes up with his blades and starts on his crossbows, Julian manages to casually drop an innocent question. "Fancy fire-tube. The crossbows backup for the thunder stick, or is it the other way around?"
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Old 11-22-2014, 11:53 AM
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Cordelia 'Lyn' Blake
'Powder looks good. Don't have to worry.' The dark-haired woman thinks as she looks over the 'fire-tube.' Cordelia handles the weapon with a certain amount of caution, ensuring she never has the barrel pointed at Julian, or anyone else who crosses their path--it's mostly aimed toward the floor of the train car, or herself. Blackpowder Blake might trust her weapon, but some others wouldn't, best they not have to worry about it. Granted, that's not the only thing dangerous about it, probably why she had to have it checked more than once.

"Good." Lyn answers to Julian's words, letting out a slight breath after. Tense--she feels a little tense. Pausing on her work for a moment, she rolls her shoulders, then stretches her neck out. Last time she felt tense going into a job... must have been at the start of the war, not knowing what to expect. A glance to Julian. 'Better have the nerve for this. Better not have someone telling Val I got killed cause' you panicked. Cause' any of you did.'

Better to expect the worst--some kind of engagement--and be prepared over not. Content to just ignore Julian's existence after that, she bristles slightly when he speaks up not long later. Momentarily, Delia considers ignoring him, hoping it'd pass, but that hasn't worked on some people. Reluctantly, she answers after a short delay. "Crossbows for quiet, gun for when it needs to die."

Cordelia removes the gun from the table and slides it back into its holster. "Keep quiet, kill stragglers. Switch when it gets noisy, or I have a plate to punch through. Done now?"

There's a small hope he wouldn't have any other questions, but looking over what Julian is doing again, she finds herself with a question of her own. She motions to the daggers. "Lookin' shiny don't help it kill no better. Why bother?'

Moving on to her own crossbows, she decides to make sure it's still working right too. Last thing she needs is those jamming again, first time it happened almost cost her. Same with working with people right out of basic, which she hopes this one isn't. 'Hope he has an answer other than the smith told him it was better.'

"With Redwater long?"

Last edited by Captain Devonin; 11-22-2014 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 11-24-2014, 02:38 PM
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LeaniShepherd Gayn stands with the other officers, face stolid, furred hood pulled up far enough to obscure her features in shadow. At the mention of her unit, she raises her chin and briefly considers the heavens. Briarburn eh?...you wicked thing.

There was a time when Leani had loved the rain, had snuck out under pregnant skies to go speak with the wood, happily hidden in the rattle of water lashing leaves. The happiest and wildest years of her life. So long ago. And now this grey procession, this...return. Of course it would rain on the day Leani set off back to the Borderlands. Of course it would.

The Headswoman pours out platitudes; like the rain, Leani hears them, and does not. Briarburn, eh?...how much does she... The woman's words must be taken seriously...not in a literal sense, of course, but insofar as they set the boundaries of what one may not be caught doing. That such things go on as a matter of course is known even to mama bear, but her shrill warnings impose a certain moderation which is necessary for the good order of the company, not to mention its reputation.

Though she has friends in the procession, Leani does not seek out familiar faces as the Redwater personnel file into the great iron ox. Now's not the time for that. That old intuition before a voyage, the feeling of being swept along by a bitter current...caught in a great machine...creeps up her spine now, abetted in no small part by the uncanny hissing of the locomotive. A proper machine, at least, in this case. Leani sighs and mounts the stairs leading up to the passenger car.

Inside the car, she stows her pack, and removes and hangs her cloak, revealing a tightly-wrapped bun of wavy hair the color of autumn leaves before they yellow. "There will do," she instructs the meats who are carrying her large black trunk. "You may go." Shepherd Gayn rummages through the trunk for a few moments, finally withdrawing a few vials of colored liquid and shutting the great leather lid. She tucks the vials into a looped carrier at her belt, and walks out into the car reserved for her team. Brodi, Cordelia...the dwarf I've heard of...Ironhollow? And these others...the one sitting with Cordelia, I think I recognize, which leaves...

Shepherd Gayn fixes her eyes on Cameron, purses her lips as if to speak, and then thinks better of it. She walks back to the baggage area and disappears for a few moments, returning with a small glass beaker in each hand and the hint of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. She sits down opposite Cameron and removes two vials - one green and one cloudy white - which she pours out slowly, almost ceremonially, into one of the beakers. The concoction fizzes and pops, and Leani sniffs at it for a moment before looking up and addressing the man on the other side of the table. "I'm Shepherd Gayn." She pours half of the still violently bubbling substance into the second beaker, and slides it across the table. "Care for a drink?"


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Old 11-24-2014, 08:31 PM
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Cameron BeckettCameron is not entirely surprised when his new commanding officer slides into the seat across from him. He's new to her team and to Redwater (comparatively so, at any rate), so he guesses that she means to size him up, to determine his worth and temperament before arrival on-scene. That's a welcome development, partly because Cameron meant to do the same of Shepherd Gayn herself, and partly because it indicates that his commanding officer is taking her duties at least slightly seriously.

What's less expected and less welcome is the fizzing beaker set before him, offered as a drink. For the slightest second, "Cameron" is startled - he wonders if she knows more than she ought - but only the slightest flicker of this concern passes over his face before he smooths it over. This is not meant as a threat or a warning, only as a greeting. Probably.

Wordlessly picking up the beaker and staring through the fizzing liquid for a moment, Cameron tries to figure out what it is before he drinks it. In the course of his career, Cameron has seen perhaps two out of every three poisons and alchemical concoctions known to the science of Sanctum, and he'd prefer to know what he's consuming, even if it is being offered by someone who doesn't have any reason to do him harm. Not that it's time to be jumping to that conclusion yet. But for the moment, we're both probably in this to survive, so that's a starting point.

"Beckett's my name, but you know that, ma'am." Cameron says at length. He doesn't drink from the container immediately, but neither does he put it down. "Sorry I'm not as intimidating as some of the other meat," he gestures almost imperceptibly and entirely dismissively at the two burly soldiers who have just finished securing Shepherd Gayn's luggage. "But I'll earn my keep all the same." He delivers this comment in a carefully measured tone, with none of the enthusiasm a young recruit might inject into those same words.

The comment is intended to offer Gayn a simple conversational path toward asking Cameron how he means to do that, which is presumably the reason she is singling him out. The others are probably all veterans with Redwater. He guesses. They have service records. I don't.
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Old 11-25-2014, 08:11 AM
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Leani GaynShepherd Gayn raises her eyebrows slightly at the last comment, and nods her head. "Aye...we all will." She dips an index finger into her beaker, stirs the liquid for a moment, then withdraws the finger and puts it in her mouth. She makes three little smacking sounds with her tongue before declaring, "Not quite ready yet."

Shepherd Gayn drums her fingers on the table for a moment and gestures at the beaker with her eyes. "It isn't poison, and it isn't alcohol," she states in answer to a question never asked. "In fact, it is just the opposite of both. Ten meats before you have sat where you're sitting now," she points at Cameron's seat somewhat absurdly, as though the specific train car bench were meant, "in my two years as Shepherd. Five of them are blooded now, and five are in the ground."

The fizzing of the elixir has died down to a low burble as the shepherd tips her beaker on one edge and swirls the contents around. "Should be good to go." She looks directly at Cameron now, narrowing her eyes conspiratorially. "You get the choice: either you drink it, I drink it, we both drink it, or nobody drinks it. It's up to you. I'll tell you the distribution of the living and the dead with respect to this," she taps on the beaker three times, slowly, "tonic...after you've made up your mind."
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Old 11-25-2014, 08:07 PM
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Cameron BeckettAlchemical. Cameron decides, when Gayn declares that it it isn't "quite ready." He'd expected that it was either that or some unfamiliar kind of recreational drink, and now that he knows, the purpose of its offering is clear. "An interesting little exercise." The man remarks dryly.

Before he speaks in relation to the choice being offered, Cameron stares at the liquid for a few seconds. The train's clattering movement is constantly agitating it, rippling its surface and shaking tiny, fizzy bubbles loose from the glass to drift up to hiss into the air. Most likely, such a concoction is unstable, but as to how long it will take to degrade, Cameron doesn't know. Based on the crisp, sharp smell emanating from it, he can only guess that the brew is meant to enhance the perceptive focus of whoever imbibes it. That's one way to get one's questions answered, I suppose. Of course, "Beckett" would rather not give the woman any means of gaining insights not relevant to the mission at hand, but being excessively cagey is what Gayn probably expects of someone whose past burdens might risk her command in the field. Dammit. This is a dangerous game, but I've no choice but to play it.

Cameron wonders idly if the two beakers' contents are as identical as they look. After all, it would be a simple matter to make one - either one, depending on the contents and motive of this experiment - a decoy. Still, this one at least has actual effects. Hers might be a look-alike meant to affect its drinker differently, but I doubt it. This little game is not a hazing, but a test. That makes it all the more interesting, and all the more perilous.

Well, in the interests of avoiding a lecture about being a team player, and avoiding extra attention and extra scrutiny, there's only one way this ends. Cameron gestures to Shepherd Gayn's own beaker while raising his own. "I'll drink it if you will, then." He says, tone light to cover over his annoyance and dark certainty that one way or another, he's going to come to regret something about this conversation. Something or everything. "If nothing else, it'll be intereting to learn what the opposite of alcohol feels like." He decides it's wise - at least, for the moment - to conceal that he's figured out the gist of what the offered elixir is supposed to do. Play your cards one at a time, and always keep one or two in reserve.
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Old 11-26-2014, 04:00 PM
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Shepherd Gayn smiles broadly. "Very well, then." She raises her beaker and tilts it in his direction. "Yours is tied with neither side drinking for the most common solution - four of each. Seems most folks, regardless of their temperament, have a reasonable sense of teamwork, reciprocity." She turns her head and looks around the car, letting her gaze pass over the rest of the team. "The couple who've deviated from that norm told me to drink alone. Tragic, mistrustful creatures both, right down to the bone," she shakes her head, and adds, without affect, "Lone wolves die alone."

The Shepherd shrugs, and looks out the window. "Of those who declined the gambit completely, two are gone." Gayn looks deeply into her own beaker for a few moments, eyes darting almost imperceptibly back and forth, tracking the fine bubbles on their way. She looks up and smiles. "So scientifically speaking, Mr. Beckett, your chances don't look too bad. Now..." she cocks her head towards her still upraised glass, "let us drink."

Leani brings the beaker to her mouth and frowns slightly. Alea iacta est. She throws her head back and downs the solution in a single gulp, blinks hard a couple of times, and regards Cameron with wide eyes, pupils dilating rapidly. "You'll have to forgive me Beckett; it's my last vice."

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Old 11-26-2014, 05:31 PM
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Cameron BeckettCameron does not hesitate to down his own elixir moments after Gayn does, and hands back the empty container as it begins to take effect. He feigns surprise at the enhancements to his senses, though he's sure that Gayn herself can see through that now. "That's... an interesting drink to share with your new recruits, ma'am." He says at length, after adjusting to how directly aware of Gayn's pulse, rate of breathing, and body temperature he has suddenly become. Her statement about this substance being her "last vice" is a blatant and unsurprising lie, one Cameron suspects he'd have seen through even before the elixir. The officer's part to play, I suppose. I wonder what her true vices are. Knowing this, of course, would be valuable, no matter how this assignment goes.

Of course, with the shepherd having taken a similar dose, she now has a similar level of awareness of him. As expected, lying to her now is nearly impossible to pull off, but the reverse is also true. Cameron's simmering, below-the-surface foul mood is probably clear enough, but he doesn't really see that as being a major problem. "No-one has chosen to drink alone, I take it." He guesses conversationally, still maintaining the cheerful demeanor for the benefit of the rest of the passengers nearby even if Gayn can see past it. Well, in all fairness most Redwater recruits probably don't know the first thing about alchemy. Some of these lunks probably couldn't boil water without step-by-step pictograph instructions. Cameron's own knowledge of the craft is a conglomeration of several sources, including Inquisition primers (which focused mostly on identification and resistance), the instructions of at least two illicit magical cabals, and some scraps of self-education, assisted by borrowed manuals, of course; he is not formally educated.

"I expect you're correct about lone wolves." He agrees mildly, glancing out the window to reassure himself that the train is still moving through the gray, damp countryside. "They generally get that way after being abused by a pack, you know." The analogy hits a little closer to home than Cameron had originally intended, but he presses on, confident that nothing Gayn couldn't deduce from studying him in silence is being learned. "Folk like us are a little more resilient. We can be cast aside once or twice and bounce back from it." He says. The statement is meant to encompass Redwater's ranks, of course - the mercenary band is known for its willingness to accept all who will fight - but Cameron has structured it carefully to sound a little like he knows something he doesn't, in the off-chance that Gayn lets her reaction betray an interesting detail.
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Old 11-27-2014, 01:40 AM
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Brodi
Once the Company is on the train, Brodi leans against a bulkhead while men and women weave past him through the press or take seats. One of Brodi’s steel-shod toes taps the floor, and his jaw clenches as he looks over the new squad. Gayn is a known quantity. There she goes again with the fizzly-pop, and that lanky Cameron fellow is sharing it. That’s a good sign. Not sure I buy into her theory of lone wolves and such, but a man should know if his Shepherd is the type to poison him before a fight. Whether Cameron is a wise man or a fatalist, Brodi decides, he’ll do. He himself had split the fizz with Gayn back in the day. Of course he had.

Lyn and Julian are quite the pair. Both look prickly and stiff, as if they haven’t shat in a week. Comparing weapons seems to bring them round, though, so that they seem human enough. Competent enough. Brodi grins as their chat turns to the merits of shiny weapons, and his grin becomes a smirk. Overgrown bread cutters. Slug-shooters. Shiny or not, I doubt they could land a hit on me.

Brodi wears his armor like an old coat. Snug. Cozy. Every steel plate is strapped and wrapped, from gorget, pauldrons and breastplate down to the greaves and sabatons. He had painted the metal in shades of dull green, brown, and gray, suitable for a forest skirmish. Each contact point is padded with wool strips to keep his movements quiet. Strapped to his back is a battered shield. Dents and furrows etch its surface, still there despite Brodi’s best efforts to hammer them flat. The only item out of place is the gaudy medal mounted on his left shoulder. If I get a bauble for saving half the squad and getting my leg split open, he had reasoned, then aye, I’m going to wear the bloody thing.

The train hisses, snorts, and gets underway. By now most of the Company is sitting down. Coversations ebb as the train picks up speed. Brodi finds himself comparing the sight to a jar of pickled fish – the kind he’d known back at home. No. Not home, his mind cuts in. Not my home anymore. But the comparison does make him smile. Soldiers packed together inside a big can. All we need’s a few dozen barrels of vinegar and a cartload of seasoning, aye? Marinate and serve.

Then his gaze flicks across the grim faces. The thin, puckered mouths. He sighs.

Huh. Turns out I am stuck in here with a bunch of sour fish. Brodi grunts, finally taking a seat next to Korrin. “Sorry about the beard,” he offers. “I know you hate the Rails. I know there’s death hanging over us. As for me, I’ll laugh at death when it comes for me. Faith help me if I won't laugh now. As you say, most other men aren’t so…childish.” Brodi drawls out the last word, the word that Korrin had flung at him. “I’m here if you want to talk, Korrin. Like always. I expect you’d rather we shut up and ride the train, though, and that’s fair enough.”

Last edited by Sir Alex; 11-27-2014 at 01:43 AM.
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