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  #16  
Old May 30th, 2019, 04:19 AM
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OriloOrilo diplomatically drops the matter, asking a few polite questions about the boy's hobbies instead. He secretly resolves to keep one eye on his charge throughout the service.

The sight of the church sets Orilo's belly roiling with such ferocity that he actually halts and takes a half step backward. A torrent of guilt and fear rush through his veins, an alien analogy of adrenaline. The air seems too hot, a weight like ten thousand chains compressing his suddenly heaving lungs.

The moment passes in stages. Orilo wonders how much time has passed during that terrifying fugue.
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Old May 30th, 2019, 07:23 AM
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Enid has a point; a fish out of water"Donít you think all those things that you wanted to do would be easier if you had the support of a good husband?"

A part of Sam wanted to yell at her mother in frustration. I can do those things. I will do those things. What's a husband got to do with it? But another part was touched by her mother's concern -- the comment struck close to the bone. Sam wasn't lonely, exactly -- she was on friendly terms with half the Southern Reaches -- but they were nearly all just acquaintances. None of them were people she could really count on. And she needed help -- just making a living and looking after her mother was about all that Sam could handle by herself. Her larger projects -- finding out what happened to Shep, saving her brother, improving the conditions in the Southern Reaches -- had largely fallen by the wayside. Sam didn't want a husband, not now, at least, but Enid was right that she needed support. Shep, Ulysses, the whole Dry Creek Gang, before they went bad -- Sam needed a replacement for them.

All of this would have been hard to tell her mother, even if she wasn't choking back more splutters about not needing a husband. Enid didn't like to feel like a burden, and Sam had always been a Daddy's girl. So she flashed a sad smile, squeezed her mother's hands a little tighter, and didn't interject that the 'rude people' at the service were just trying to get by, like everyone else. It would have to be enough.

* * * * *

Arriving at the church, Sam could feel eyes on her mother and her, and noticed her mother go quiet. She could feel them, judging -- and in the harsh light of day with her headache starting to clear, Sam had to admit they had a point. The stains on her Enid's dress were worse than she remembered, and her own hair clearly showed that she hadn't had a proper bath since...she wasn't sure. But who had time and money for all that? With another pang she missed her days on the ranch, where most everyone looked as shabby as she did, and it was the folk who cleaned up nice that got ribbed and looked down on.

But she wanted to shield her Mama from their glances and thoughts as much as possible, so she drew herself up as straight as she could, noting her mail was gleaming nicely in the sunset, and looked anyone looking at them straight in the eyes with nod and straight mouth. They'd left in plenty of time for the service, and her mother was having a good day, walking-wise, so they'd made it a bit early. Sam led her mother by the arm straight into the church, and though she'd much rather have slipped into a pew at the back she knew her mother liked being up close, and so they guided her into the open seat as closest to the front as she could find, continuing to make eye contact with anyone looking in their direction, but with a curt nod that shut-down the idea of any further conversation.

Settling into her seat, she was painful aware that her armor was out of place, that nobody else stunk of accumulated layers of sweat from the blacksmith. What was she doing here?
  #18  
Old May 30th, 2019, 10:09 AM
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Thom Morgan
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Staring at the contents of the cedar box for a long moment, a small frown creased Thom's narrow face. Why would someone be sending me potions?

It was a strange gift, for a variety of reasons. Not least of which being that Thom was sure that none of his regular churchgoers could afford such a thing. The note had said "for your health" and these items certainly qualified, but Thom was relatively young, in good health generally, and had never needed such...extreme solutions before in his life.

He removed the vials, holding them up to the light curiously. A mystery, to be sure.

Realizing what time it was, the preacher put the box down on his desk and absently pocketed the two small vials, turning quickly to the door. He could just hear the quiet din of people gathering and he knew he was already late to be out greeting visitors and regulars a like.

Upon emerging from the small office off the the side of the pulpit and alter, Thom made his way back down the central aisle at a more sedate pace. He smiled at those who had already found their seats, nodding solemnly as he thought people expected from their pastor. He spotted Mrs. Smith and her daughter Sam sitting near the front. He stopped for a moment to take the older woman's hand and provide a respectful new year's greeting before meeting Sam's eyes and smiling a bit wider, the twinkle in his eye taking any bite out of his words. "Good to see you here, Sam. You're looking very...prepared."

Continuing down the now decorated aisle, he mouthed a few more greetings, taking note of any new faces, before finally reaching the narthex and the denser population of standing arrivals. While the crowd was mostly human, he was heartened to see other members of the community in attendance. The demographics also made it easy to note that Shadow and Treasure were not yet in attendance. Thom had hoped the unusual family would make it in from their ranch, but that life didn't always bend to a proper church schedule.

It was also easy to spot the Goliath attendees. The church was new enough to have been built with larger parishioners in mind, but human populated rooms always seemed a bit cramped with any number of Goliath mixed in. Thom made his way over to Vauthag and clasped wrists with the larger man. "Happy new year! Good to see you here, my friend. And thank you for bringing along your friends. I don't see your man, Orilo yet though? Or is this one of those occasions for fashionable tardiness?"

 
  #19  
Old May 30th, 2019, 02:14 PM
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Dolan
As Dolan walked, the world spun around him. Several times he needed to stop and rest, leaning against a building or sitting down on a stoop. But he slowly began to feel better. The walk was further than he judged and as he found himself returning to familiar territory his nausea was beginning to subside, and in its place, he felt hungry. Checking his pockets he had a few coppers left, enough hopefully for a stale crust of bread.

As he stumbled towards a tavern, a gaunt young boy called out to him, holding up his scrawny hands, "could'ya spare a copper sir?" Dolan barely noticed him, ignoring the beggars in the Reach was natural for Dolan at this point.

Sitting down at the tavern, which seemed more crowded than usual at this time of morning, Dolan laid his copper down "I'll take whatever food this will get me." The bartender disappeared behind into a store room and returned moments later with half a loaf of bread, "It's from yesterday, but that's all you can afford." Dolan thanked the man, and tearing off a piece left the tavern.

It wasn't until he began chewing the bread that he realized how hungry he really was, it was old bread, but in that moment it tasted like pure heaven to Dolan. Coming to, he realized that he had fozen in place a step outside the tavern as he took in the bliss of the bread. Beneath him stood the beggar boy, holding his dirty hands up at Dolan. Dolan looked down at the boy, and then at his loaf of bread, his stomach still grumbling. He knew in his mind what he should do, but surely it wasn't up to him to feed all the poor of the Reach right? Just as he was about to wave the child away he saw his bloodied knuckles and remembered what he had done to Wensel. He tore off one last bite from the loaf for himself, and then gave the rest to the child.

The child's face lit up as he accepted the bread in both hands. "Thank ya! Thank ya! Sir!" He shouted before quickly scurrying away.
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Last edited by DonaldJWafer; May 30th, 2019 at 06:59 PM.
  #20  
Old May 31st, 2019, 02:15 PM
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The ChurchVauthag smiled down at Thom and clasped a large hand on the preacher's shoulder. "Good to see you too, my friend." He chuckled briefly - a sound that came deep from inside his chest. "Oh, I'm sure Orilo will be here. He does things in his own time and style, as you know. It's not in it for my people to simply follow in the path of those who came before them."

With time, more and more people trickled in to the interior of the church. A large number of Goliath's came. There was a family of Tabaxi, including 3 children, that slinked their way through the building crowd to find seats. As one would expect, most of the parishioners were Human and simple townsfolk. Most people had put on their best church-going clothing. Some didn't own any such outfit and simply came as they were. Greetings were shared between neighbors and acquaintances - the required social civility of running into people that touched the lives of others, no matter how incidentally.

Sam and her mother, and Orilo and his charge arrived in good time. They were welcomed in by those who knew them. A young man that Sam knew as Paul (the candle-maker's son) offered up his spot at the end of one of the pews for Enid to sit. By the looks of things, it was going to be standing-room only pretty soon.

One of the last people to filter in was Dolan, having made a stop to intentionally delay his arrival.


Shadow at DawnDeputy Sikes nodded, though he approached Shadow with the manacles nonetheless. "I can appreciate your position. Though, I have heard people give their word who were as guilty as sin itself. You won't be hung without a proper investigation; I can assure you of that. But we have to take this matter seriously. The dead man - who we haven't identified just yet - was found on your property and looks to have been killed by the claws of a Tabaxi." He looked down meaningfully at Shadow's paws / hands. "Whether or not you are the murderer, I'm afraid I must insist on your arrest and detainment until the truth of the situation can be determined."

Last edited by girlplay; May 31st, 2019 at 02:16 PM.
  #21  
Old Jun 2nd, 2019, 04:13 PM
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OriloRecovering from his momentary distraction, Orilo sets his face in a somber demeanor to enter the church. A faint grin blossoms when he crosses the threshold.

"So many Goliaths!"

Orilo wastes no time, dragging young Bryenn over to the most prominent Goliath in the room.

"Bones! When you approached me those years ago I would have never imagined so many kin attending service but for your boundless vigor and confidence. May I introduce my charge, Factotum Bryenn. Bryenn, Elder Vauthag 'Slackbone' Nightwarrior. Don't ask him where the nickname comes from until you're older." With half an eye on the lad, elbow ready to give an 'encouraging' nudge should the boy fail to give the elder Goliath due respect, Orilo turns to the minister.

"Thom! Wonderful, what you've done with the place. A thousand apologies for not coming to one of your services in, what, a year now? The work of an ambassador, even an assistant, is never finished. Let me buy you a beer..." Orilo looks over Thom's austere attire - the only company which makes Orilo's Greys look festive by comparison, and reconsiders. "...or a milk?" "It really has been a while if you forgot a simple preference like that!"
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  #22  
Old Jun 3rd, 2019, 11:45 AM
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Feeling judged, being judgemental"Thanks Paul -- mighty appreciated. Stay out of trouble, hear?" Sam squeezes the boys hand perhaps a bit too hard as she settlers her mother into her seat at the end of the pew, just in time to be greeted by the pastor himself.

"Good to see you here, Sam. You're looking very...prepared." She can tell it's a light ribbing, but a church is not Sam's element and she immediately gets flustered. She was comfortable with when they'd drank together at the pub, or bumped into each other in the Reaches, usually one or the other of them giving a hand to someone in need. But the religious side was completely foreign to her, and she's a bit flushed as she fumbles for a response. "Errr, right. It's my, uh, ceremonial get-up. Good luck on the service, Tom -- knock 'em out!"

Sam cursed her choice of words as she took a place standing near the back, where she felt more comfortable. She kept half an eye on her mother, just in case she needed help with something, but also took in the rest of the attendees. Many of the folk she recognised -- it wasn't a huge town, and most of the attendees were from the Reach which was even smaller -- and she was gratified to note she wasn't the shabbiest dressed among them. The Goliaths couldn't help but stand out, and though Sam's employer, Paavu the blacksmith, was not in attendance, many of the Goliaths were familiar from stopping in at the smith for a brief chat. She recognized Vauthag Nightwarrior, who she vaguely knew was an authority figure among the local Goliaths. She was too far away to hear what he and Tom were talking about. A moment later another Goliath, shepherding a youth, rush up to meet. Sam doesn't recognize Orilo, and can't make out what he's saying, but takes an instant dislike to him -- his bearing, his dress, his mannerisms -- he seemed a bit self-important. Not from the Reaches. The type of person who looked down on Sam for having hung out with the Dry Creek Gang to begin with, rather than respect her for walking away when they went from trouble-makers to criminals.

Standing in her armor, her hangover receded but not fully gone, the service hasn't even started yet and already Sam is feeling uncomfortable. How long are these things, again? Hope there's food at the end...
  #23  
Old Jun 3rd, 2019, 02:55 PM
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Thom Morgan
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Thom gave Orilo a good-natured grin. "Beer will be just fine, but maybe not when I'm about to officiate a religious service, yeah?"

He motioned to the open double doors and the rapidly filling pews, "Come, take a seat. We should get started."

He raised his voice for the last bit. Not necessarily louder, just more audible. His church voice, as his dad had called it. Making his way down the aisle, he arranged a few of the holy books he wanted to speak from at the lectern and then moved off to the side, waiting for the last of the crowd to filter in before beginning the service. His dark jacket and white shirt stood out as a contrast to the wood and stone construction of the church, but at the same time he often felt like he just blended in with the front of the church, as much a part of the building as the stone alter or the icons to each of the elven gods.

OOCNow, I can breeze through a service and hit some high points, if that would make sense, or we could skip over it completely and all agree that Thom would do a professional job with the thing. Or maybe it is a Performance roll? I've been giving it a fair bit of thought, so I'm open to whatever.

 
  #24  
Old Jun 3rd, 2019, 06:43 PM
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Late to the party

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It wasn't until he was nearly back at the boarding house that it finally hit Dolan why today was special, why he saw so many gathering around at such an early hour. The sound of bells chiming off in the distance snapped him almost entirely out of his hangover. New Year's Day?! So I've been out of it for four days now? Dolan knew that Thom would be giving a special service at the Church this morning and hadn't intended on missing it, he hoped he wasn't already too late.

Tt the thought, he began to run in the direction of the church, before remembering his appearance. The boarding house was only a block further, it wouldn't take more than a couple minutes to run in and get a fresh shirt. He just hoped he wouldn't run into Wensel.

With a fresh set of clothes Dolan sprinted out the door of the boarding house and towards the church. It wasn't more than a ten minute walk usually, but the sun was already fairly high in the sky. Dolan liked Thom, and cared about what Thom thought of him. The two had rarely spoke, but Thom took an interest in his community and even if they had only been introduced the one time, he struck Dolan as the kind of man to never forget a face or a name. He respected that, and didn't want to let him down.

Slowing down as he reached the doors to the church. Dolan ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath before opening the door and sliding in the back just as the sermon began. Thom seemed focused in the words he was saying and might have missed him slip in, he hoped so anyways.


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Quick Ben: I was looking forward to hearing the entire sermon that you prepared, word for word.
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  #25  
Old Jun 4th, 2019, 09:07 PM
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At churchVauthag Nightwarrior was an unavoidable presence in any room. Not only was he taller than even most other Goliaths at 8 feet, but he had a magnetism that attracted attention. Perhaps it was an aura of confidence or just an unexplainable likeability but there was no denying that he was a man of great stature, both physically and metaphorically. While not as bulky as other Goliaths, his musculature was well-defined and impressive. His square-jaw and hawkish nose gave him a sense that he could move into action at any moment that warranted it. So too, did the various small scars on his skin reflect that he wasn't a leader that just talked and inspired but has also seen danger up close and personal. At the moment, his outfit consisted mostly of a bear fur - one he had undoubtedly killed himself - a pair of sturdy calf-boots, and a fine pair of jet-black pants.

Bryenn looked up at the imposing figure with an appropriate level of trepidation but Vauthag's warm smile seemed to settle the mood somewhat. "A pleasure to meet you, young man," Vauthag boomed. "Perhaps we should get a drink and talk after the proceedings." It was an offer that the Goliath leader extended often enough to not know for sure whether Vauthag was being genuine or not. But for now, he joined his fellow Goliaths on pews at the back of the room. In all, the host of Goliaths numbered about one-quarter of the people present in the small church.

The occupants of the room got settled and fell quiet as the preacher took command of the ceremonies.

Last edited by girlplay; Jun 4th, 2019 at 09:12 PM.
  #26  
Old Jun 5th, 2019, 11:57 AM
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New Year Service
Thom stood in the center of the dias, in front of the alter holding the eleven icons for the eleven gods of the pantheon and let the silence linger for a moment. The morning light streamed in from the far window as it always did at this time of day.
That never seemed to diminish the effect though, and Thom thought a small prayer to Valo for the gift. Strangely, despite the direct sunlight, Thom's dark irises and black coat didn't seem to get any brighter, looking like a void in the otherwise brightly lit chancel.

"Welcome, my friends, and happy new year. Thank you for joining me on this blessed day," Thom began, raising his nimble hands and projecting his strong voice to the very back of the church. He moved through the beginnings of the church service with practiced ease, guiding the congregation through the opening hymn (an upbeat number, as far as hymns go, praising Elama for another year of life), the ritual offering to Kuolema (a symbolic sacrifice with red ribbon standing in for Thom's actual blood) and the actual offering to Luonto and his bounty which was the primary source of worldly support for the church. By the time the young preacher stepped up to the lectern to deliver his sermon, he felt as if the service had developed its own rhythm, as these things often do, and he tried to stay within the flow as he addressed the packed church.

"Another year, my friends. Blessed by Elama, another year of life, and another gift of spring given to us by Luonto's endless cycle. In many ways, spring is a new beginning for us all. "

Across the church, Thom seemed to meet Dolan's eye as he entered, for just a moment as he spoke.

"After a summer of hard work, and the effort of the harvest and the long slumber of winter, we awaken, each of us, anew. Guided by the gods and goddesses of our world, it is still up to each of us to shape what this new year will bring. To ourselves...our families...and our community."

Speaking smoothly, engaging the crowd, Thom caught Sam's eye for a moment as he spoke of family.

"Because isn't that the fundamental lesson that the gods teach us? The value of community. There is no one all powerful being running our lives. Nor do we disdain all other gods to the exclusive worship of one single divine facet like they do at the temples. You all come here, I hope, because you understand the value of community."

Thom raised his gaze to the back of the church, to the Goliaths representing their tight knit community, catching Orilo's gaze.

Into the brief silence, Thom motioned at the alter and its veritable crowd of holy icons representing each of the Eleven. The stone alter itself was carved with subtle reliefs showing the four elements: air, earth, fire and water. The foundation upon which the community sits.

"Indeed, we recognize that life and the world have many facets. And just as the gods focus their efforts for our benefit, so do we in the community provide our blood and our sweat for the benefit of all. Bakers and brewers, farmers and politicians. Soldiers and scholars. We all serve a vital purpose and the world would be less without our presence. My friends, please, be mindful of other's contributions. Compensate them fairly for their labors and rejoice that we can live together in this place. In Argillon Falls, I know, we are an independant people. But we are still, all of us, part of this community. And we are stronger together."

Scanning the crowd, Thom tried to gauge the mood. It was always a tricky thing to try to adjust a sermon on the fly, riding the feelings of the congregation, but the young preacher knew he wouldn't see a crowd like this again for another year.

"As it is with the gods, nature would not flourish without the sun, war is not waged without pride and, yes, even life has no meaning without death. So it is here in the world. We give each other meaning. Let us, in this new year, choose what our lives and our community will be. Together."

Thom stepped down from the lectern into the post-sermon silence, the usual nerves assailing him. How did I sound? Did everyone understand? Did I give them what they needed?

Falling back on ritual, Thom returned to the center of the chancel to lead the prayers to each of the eleven gods, beseeching them individually for their boons or the grace or, in some cases, just their lack of attention. Finally, he started the final hymn, chosen specifically to highlight his sermon, a lay to Vaarentaa, letting the congregation continue on its own as he made his way down the center aisle of singing parishioners to the narthex, ready to shake hands as the people departed.
  #27  
Old Jun 5th, 2019, 06:23 PM
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Shadow couldn't help but audibly scoff at the nature of the accusation. It was absurd, of course. But still, he had made a promise and extended his arms outward that he might be cuffed and await trial peacefully.

"Well go on and do as you must there, deputy. But you do your work and ask the kind folk around my little pasture what I would have actually done if I were confronted by a threat. I certainly would not be using my claws. Haven't had cause to in some time, and my bad back would not likely tolerate a scrap in any case. I'll come quiet, however, and don't tell a soul I didn't."

Unexpected Treasure...you do as you were told, girl.

If secured, he would simply nod and mount up where he was asked to.

"Well, go on, then. Daylight's burning."

His mind was consumed as he waited with thoughts of this poor dead soul, and who in the hell they might be...
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  #28  
Old Jun 5th, 2019, 08:20 PM
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Shadow at Dawn Deputy Sikes didn't take too much umbrage from being rebuked by Shadow; who would expect somebody to be happy about being arrested. At least his quarry had not resisted, put up a fight, or tried to run. He proceeded to shackled the Tabaxi's wrists and allow the Lizardfolk man to take control of leading the prisoner back towards the marshal's office. It wasn't a short walk so the other two peace officers rode their horses and lead the third. "Don't be ssso ssssure that your neighborssss will back you up," said the reptilian lawman. "One of them wasss the one that found the body and reported it to usss."

The procession passes several homes and ranches on the way to the lock-up. A few of Shadow's neighbors were out early enough to see the group pass by. Stares and quiet whispers to their spouse or sibling was a common reaction to the incident. Certainly within hours, the rumor of the arrest would start to spread. They lead Shadow to a high, brick building with no windows and but a single door. Inside was a small room with a desk and 2 short hallways lined with iron doors. Each door had a slit near the floor and a small, grated window at just above eye level. Deputy Sikes and the Lizardfork accompanied Shadow inside while the other tended to the horses. "First class accommodations for our guest," Sikes jested as he locked the main door and then proceeded down to open up a cell door.

Shadow's shackles were removed and he was ushered inside the cell. The door was then shut and locked. Apparently deciding to "ice" Shadow for a while, they left him alone with his thoughts for a good hour. A groan from the adjacent cell - though there were no windows in the cell to look through to verify - told him at the marshals had another prisoner as well. The cell was actually very plain indeed: No windows other than the one in the door and only a straw mat on the floor to rest on. A wooden bucket adorned on corner of the room and from the smell of it, apparently the design was for him to use the bucket as a bedpan.

Eventually, Sikes' voice wafted through the door's window. "Well, I think it's about time we start talking about where you were last night? Can anybody but your daughter vouch for you? What's your relationship with the deceased?"

  #29  
Old Jun 6th, 2019, 07:24 AM
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OriloOrilo sits, outwardly calm: straight back, pleasant expression, nodding occasionally at all the right times. Inside, however, is a storm of emotion.

"Family, community...new beginnings."

Memories flash behind Orilo's serene eyes, a tightening of neck muscles and a too-quick breath the only signs. A young Orilo, wheedling his elders into giving him the easy tasks. Zunis, the Triton skald, promising to take him away if he will learn his trade. The furious look on his mother's face as he returned covered in "frivolous nothings." The looks the nobility gave him about those same garments: "savage rags."

"No time for self-indulgence...the service is ending."

Orilo stands, but lingers as the receiving line wends past Thom to the fresh New Year morning. In his heart, despite his paradoxical disdain for his own contemplation, Orilo resolves to corner Thom for that beer. "Maybe he will have the answers I seek."

Remembering suddenly his duties, he look about for Bryenn...though in a technical sense, his job is done.
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Old Jun 6th, 2019, 10:52 AM
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Springtime, but the ground is still frozen.The beginning of the service finds Sam awkwardly mouthing along to the hymn, pretending to sing -- she's not familiar with the tune, and even if she had a hymnal wouldn't have joined in anyway.

The sacrifices, ritual and actual, similarly leave her cold, and rocking from foot to foot to keep her legs from falling asleep. It's not that she didn't believe -- she knew the gods were real, everyone had heard stories, and she'd even seen the odd bit of divine magic, here and there. But they weren't the only powers -- her Daddy's stories about what the dwarf's did put any stories she'd heard of clerics powers to shame. And the Primordials -- she well knew the power of fire, but from her days on the range had seen plenty of rain, wind and earth as well. There was no dying their powers, it was immediate, direct, always present -- none of this boring ceremony stuff and abstruse symbolism.

The dull pounding of her hangover didn't help matters, of course.

Only once the sermon began did Sam feel herself drawn in. Community. Now there was a power she respected, if not fully understood. As Thom continued talking, he seemed less and less like church-folk, or the stuffy caricature of them Sam had, and more like the young man she'd drank with, discussing how to help this poor family, or dry out that old drunkard.

Which didn't stop her from flushing red again when Thom looked at her when he said families. To end the glance she looked at her Mama, sitting stiffly and attentively, and she just felt tired. Tired and empty. Daddy gone for years now, and every looking more and more like Ulysses was lost too, if not dead. And Mama just felt like work. Community, too, she mourned -- she was busy around the Southern Reaches, it was home, but again it felt like she put in more than she got out. She missed the joking camaraderie of the ranch, missed Shep's easy concern. More community lost.

Sam's a bit lost in these thoughts as Thom continues -- snapping to at "Compensate them fairly for their labors", a rowdy "Hear, hear!" escaping her mouth before she can quite control it, though the heads swinging around to stare at her sends her blushing again, and staring at the floor. Thom's mention of "Argillon Falls" sends her mood sour again. Though she feels at home in the reaches, the city as a whole does has not felt like a community to Sam, not since Daddy died, and she and Mama and Ulysses slipped from middle class respectability to just getting by, not since the folk in fine dress started moving nervously away from her on the street when she started hanging with the Dry Creek Gang. She'd be mindful of their contributions when they started respecting her.

So the message of hope, of renewal, was lost on Sam -- her losses were too deep, too many, too recent for her to hear it just yet. But the sermon did touch her, and she was even more quiet and withdrawn than on the walk over as she walked back to collect Enid from her pew. She played little role in the cheery post-service buzz as friends wished each other a new year and caught up while waiting to file past the minister for greeting, only mechanically replying to those who spoke to her.

She did manage a half-hearted smile when she and her mother finally reached Thom. She shook his hand firmly, looked briefly, searchingly, into his eyes. "Some mighty nice words, minister. Plenty to think on." but had time for no more before needing to guide her mother slowly out of the way of the next congregants.

Her hangover had passed, and after all the standing still Sam longed to be out in the open air, moving, but her mother wasn't ready to leave, and so Sam stood dutifully at her side, lending her arm as a support, while her mother chatted with old friends.

The gossip wafted over her, unheard, as she mourned her lost families.
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