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mcclay
Jul 8, 2013

Oh dear oh gosh oh darn


Soiled Meat

Wait, is Roy even like, allowed to be touched by these woman due to his weird Untouchable position? If shaking hands with a Shepard is considered dishonorable, I can't imagine the social consequences for coming onto one, to say nothing of actually having sex.

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Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

mcclay posted:

Wait, is Roy even like, allowed to be touched by these woman due to his weird Untouchable position? If shaking hands with a Shepard is considered dishonorable, I can't imagine the social consequences for coming onto one, to say nothing of actually having sex.

People are not allowed to touch him, much less have sex with him.

And yet he's going to get all that unwanted attention anyway. Obviously this is to test her people. It's pretty devious. Thanks thread.

cigaw
Sep 13, 2012


mcclay posted:

Wait, is Roy even like, allowed to be touched by these woman due to his weird Untouchable position? If shaking hands with a Shepard is considered dishonorable, I can't imagine the social consequences for coming onto one, to say nothing of actually having sex.
That's a good point, actually. The Horse Maiden would be screwing over her own people by tempting them with uncleanliness.

Unless she doesn't go for full on sexual attraction and makes it all platonic, sticking Roy in the forever friendzone.

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Deadmeat5150 posted:

I love the Animism aspect here, it's fantastic. And Ive been in a couple of godgames with Ice and he has good ideas in that direction.

Thanks buddy.

quote:

+1 making the introvert incredibly noticable to the opposite sex.
Shenanigans will ensue.

The opposite sex? Really? With all of these cowboys around?

I kid.

CourValant
Feb 25, 2016

Do You Remember Love?

Ice Phisherman posted:

I'm glad that you're enjoying yourself.

I really, really am; this palette cleanser of yours is wonderful, thanks for being our on-demand author.

Definitely enough meat here to turn it into a sellable book series.

This is feeding my soul in ways that Blake Island can't touch, not that one is better than the other, just different.

I'm getting my mature, adult themed, life is a spectrum of greys, we do what we can until our destiny is revealed, gritty, Seven Samurai disguised as a Western, fix here in the most delightful, satisfying ways.

cigaw posted:

Unless she doesn't go for full on sexual attraction and makes it all platonic, sticking Roy in the forever friendzone.

If I don't get my ribbons-in-hair, full moon, One Tree Oasis druid silver sickle berry harvesting fertility ritual with Roy scene, Imma Misery'ing Ice for real this time.

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Secret Art: Toxic Crotch Whirlwind!

I'm all aboard the "Make Roy Unexplainably Physically/Charismatically Attractive to Everyone" train.

jagadaishio
Jun 25, 2013

I don't care if it's ethical; I want a Mammoth Steak.


As an aside, I've always enjoyed Vodoun-style priest-avatars who serve as mortal vessels to gods. It's just a fun concept. Even when it's a much grander and larger deity, that kind of thing hellos condense then down to a personally-relatable level, instead of something too large and nebulous.

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Roy

"So what's it like, being a Shepherd?" asked Delfina.

Delfina rode next to him, just out of reach. Her horse, a brown and white paint, who was far smaller than Chuck the draft horse, kept wanting to drift close. However, she wouldn't allow it. Delfina wore simple, white-grey woolen clothing and a large straw hat that was frayed here and there. She looked to be in her late teens or early twenties. Her skin was brown, her nose was a little too large for her face and her ears stuck out from underneath her long, thick, black hair. In fact she was rather plain. Still, she knew how to ride. Better than Roy at least, as her posture was perfect and she looked comfortable in the saddle.

He'd expected Delfina not to speak to him. That was what he was used to. Instead she asked him endless questions. She was Tina's oldest daughter and Tina had ordered her to take Roy to the homestead so he wouldn't get lost on the way. Everything on the plains looked the same after all and the trails weren't well maintained.

"That's a big question," said Roy.

Roy was glad for the company. They weren't moving quickly, but they were moving faster than on foot. After all, Chuck the draft horse was meant for pulling, not moving fast. Roy reasoned that he could get up to fifteen miles an hour. Maybe twenty, but not for long. Delfina's paint could easily outrun him.

"Should I ask smaller questions?" asked Delfina.

Roy thought about it and eventually shrugged.

"I'm just not sure where to start with a big question like that," he said. "Maybe be more specific?"

Delfina didn't ask a follow up question immediately. Instead she thought about it, which he appreciated. Many people in his experience asked questions that they could find the answers to if they thought about it. Unlike most people, Delfina gave her questions due consideration before speaking.

"Can anyone be a Shepherd?" she asked.

"No," Roy responded. "You're born one or you're not. Most Shepherds come from families dating back to the fall of the empire. There are some born outside of those families, but they're rare."

Rare meaning they were probably bastards of Shepherds. Roy did not say that part out loud as he was not from one of those families.

"Why are they rare?" she asked.

Roy didn't frown at her, but it was hard not to. This was a touchy subject for him. Still, he was happy for any company, even if she was good at asking uncomfortable questions for this had not been her first one.

"Um...That's..." began Roy. "Also complicated."

"You mean they have sex outside of marriage?" she asked.

Roy cleared his throat and readjusted his hat.

"Yes. That's um...That's about it," said Roy, his tone uncomfortable.

"Are you sure that's complicated?" she asked. "That doesn't sound complicated."

Roy sighed as he tried to scrape together what was left of his pride.

"You're very direct," said Roy.

Delfina looked away. There was nothing to look at in that direction so Roy knew near instantly that he'd hurt her feelings.

"I apologize," said Roy, slowly. "I didn't mean to be rude."

He was very careful not to be seen as rude around people. Brianna and Maureen Mathers' notes had mentioned not to be rude, for there was no expiration dates on grudges.

"No, you are right," said Delfina, sadly. "I am the rude one. Please accept my apologies. Sometimes I am too free with my thoughts. It gets me in trouble. It makes it hard for me to find a husband. Also I went riding without doing my chores and mother said I won't be allowed to see the Horse Maiden. I have to wait until she comes again to ask for a boon. I get in trouble a lot. Like now."

"I'm sorry," said Roy. "If it means anything, you're not in trouble with me."

"Thank you," she said, sweetly. "That is generous of you. I'm still curious about you if you want to share."

The horses knew the way, the landscape was dull and someone was talking to him. It was a rare thing that people would engage with him so he relished it, despite their mutual social fumbling. If anything, Roy knew that this was practice for engaging with the clans.

"Ask whatever you want," said Roy.

"Okay..." she began, slowly.

She thought for a time before asking again.

"How does your magic work?" she asked.

"Well, it's no secret, but we don't talk about it much. It scares people," said Roy, cautiously.

Delfina raised her chin as she looked at him and the sun struck her face.

"I do not scare easily," she said, proudly.

"I see," said Roy. "I also don't want you to repeat any of this without me around. People can get the wrong ideas. I don't want to make people afraid of me. It gets in the way of me doing my job. Are you sure that you want to know?"

She paused and thought about it. Delfina didn't respond seconds later, but several minutes later. She'd given the question due consideration. With a slow nod she spoke her oath.

"I swear that I shall not tell others about how your magic works without you present," she said, solemnly.

Roy nodded at her, impressed by the young woman.

"Okay, well, you're sure and you've made your promise. I guess I can't ask anything more of you," he said, seriously. "Tell me what you think you know."

She brightened and began to speak rapidly.

"Shepherds judge the dead spirits and send them up to the Fields or the Fiery Lake," she said, quickly. "They always know who should go where and never make mistakes. They can heal any wound with their magic. They protect people from hungry ghosts and demons."

"Hmm...Okay, you're about half right," said Roy.

"I am mistaken?" asked Delfina, anxiously.

"On some things. You know more than some," said Roy. "I do judge dead spirits or souls or ghosts, whatever you want to call them. However, I'm just a person. I can make mistakes. My judgement isn't always correct because I have my doubts sometimes. People will say much to stay out of the Fiery Lake. I tend to talk to them for a long time. I ask them questions over and over to see if they're lying or if their story changes. People that lie to a Shepherd get more time added to their judgement."

Delfina's brows furrowed so heavy that even Roy noticed it under her straw hat.

"People lie to you?" she asked, her tone disbelieving.

She was completely incredulous at what he'd said. It was the same tone that Roy imagined she'd take if he told her that she wasn't wearing a hat, despite her knowing it was on top of her head.

"That's strange to you?" asked Roy.

"I..." she began. "I um...I don't..."

She was completely flabbergasted by the question. After a few seconds she calmed herself, closed her eyes, took a deep breath and continued.

"People who lie dishonor themselves, their families and their clan," she said, coldly. "If they lie, they and their families are looked down upon. Liars are bringers of shame. If the lie is big enough, or they lie too many times, the person could be banished. If their families don't disown them, the men will lose their herds and the women will lose their property. They too are banished, but I have never heard of a family being banished. The liar either admits their shame or is banished. Sometimes people can be mistaken, like I was. It is not lying to be mistaken, but people who are mistaken too often are looked down upon. People should spread truth and speak only of what they know. If they do not know a thing, they should listen to those who do before they speak. If they do not want to know, then they should be silent."

Roy was taken aback by this. As a Shepherd, he was used to being lied to by the dead, their living families, town officials, the guild, everyone really. Anything to get a better verdict out of him or to cheat him of his wages for normal goods or services. Not being lied to was bizarre for Roy, but here was Delfina, and she found it equally, if not more bizarre that people would lie at all.

"Well if you are still curious, I can tell you the right things so you will not be mistaken again," he said, carefully. "I will be more careful in the future. I did not wish for you to be mistaken. I apologize."

"I accept your apology," she said, graciously.

She was quiet for a few minutes after that. However, Roy could feel a subtle tension building in the air between Delfina and himself. She broke it when she spoke.

"Shepherd Roy," she began, slowly. "Do people where you come from lie to one another?"

Roy mulled his answer over for a while.

"Many people do, yes," he said, finally.

"Oh...Everyone is banished? Everyone is shamed?" she asked, as she groped for understanding. "How does that work?"

Roy struggled to order his thoughts and convey them in a way that she would understand. He was glad that there was no one else around. If things went poorly, the damage would be limited. Or so he hoped.

"Telling a lie can bring some shame. Someone who is a known liar won't be trusted, but it is rare for them to be banished over lying. It's more about why they lied more than the lie itself that would shame them," he explained.

"But what about their honor?" she asked, fretfully.

Roy furrowed his brows in thought, but he quickly came to his conclusion.

"In my experience, people who boast most about their honor have the least amount of it," he said.

Delfina smiled and giggled in relief at finally being able to understand something.

"Oh, I know about that. I know about how people boast," she said, and her tone was now far less plagued with anxiety. "My mother says that the more a man boasts, the less he's accomplished. He talks loudly about little. Quiet men know their worth because people already know their deeds. Great deeds don't need boasting to spread. Great deeds spread on their own. They spread not on the lips of the man who did the deed, but on the lips of others."

"Your mother sounds wise," said Roy.

Delfina beamed at him.

"Thank you!" she exclaimed. "I hope to be as wise as her one day."

Her smile was positively infectious. The plain girl in the straw hat become pretty for a moment. Her smile made Roy smile too. However, shortly afterward, she frowned and fiddled nervously with the reigns that she held. Not enough to give a command or get its attention, but enough for Roy to notice.

"Shepherd Roy, you don't tell lies, do you?" she asked, nervously.

If Roy hadn't read what little of Maureen Mathers' journal or listened to Brianna's warning about the clans, he may have answered without thinking. Instead he ordered his thoughts and attempted to respond with his most diplomatic answer.

"Part of the reason that I was sent here was because I would not accept bribes or tell lies to people," he said, cautiously. "However, I would be lying if I said that I have never lied before. Now that I am here and I understand that lying is taken very seriously. I am resolved not to lie so I do not bring shame upon myself or others."

Delfina nodded seriously.

"Good," she said. "Do not shame yourself."

"I will do my best," said Roy, diplomatically.

"No!" she said, sharply.

Her tone was so filled with rebuke that he felt like he'd been slapped. His head jerked on reflex, and he pulled the reigns of his horse. It turned to the side a bit and tossed its head a few times before Roy was able to settle Chuck back down again. When the minor crisis was over, she was staring at him, her features hard.

"No. Do not do your best," she said, coldly. "If a woman ruins a shirt or a man loses an animal, they have failed. If they fail, but they have done their best, they can try again without being shamed. Liars can not try again. Their honor, the honor of their families and the honor of the clan is permanently stained. To fall into dishonor means that no one will trade with you, no one will help you when you are in need and no one will ride with you against your enemies. If the clan were to fall into dishonor, there would be no clan. Honor is everything. It is who you are and what you do, always. Those who are honorable understand their place, they do not suffer insults and if insulted, they always respond, they protect their guests, they respect the land and their animals, they are brave, they treat their families with respect, they are loyal to their friends, they keep their faith and most of all, they never lie. This is the way of honor. Always tell the truth or be silent. I do not know the ways of where you are from, but you are not there. You are here. We are not a people who accept dishonor. We are Horse Clan. We do not lie, because we do not suffer dishonor. Do not stain your honor, Shepherd Roy, because the Horse Clan needs a Shepherd. If you are dishonorable, the clan would suffer. If you filled yourself with dishonor, the clan would fall apart because the clan would drive you away. Even knowing that we would be plagued by hungry ghosts and demons, we would still do so, because honor is worth more than life."

Roy had not felt so chastised in years. Not since his schooling among the elder Shepherds had he been corrected and dressed down so thoroughly, and in this case it was by someone more than a decade younger than him. Many people feared Shepherds and suddenly he believed Delfina when she said she did not scare easily. In fact, he now believed everything she said. It dawned upon him that if someone from the Horse Clan said something was true, they believed that they were telling the truth. He'd known in an intellectual way that this was true, but he was only now coming to understand what that actually meant. He struggled with how to respond to her and then decided with the most straightforward answer he could manage.

"I am not completely sure what it means to be honorable in the eyes of the Horse Clan," he said slowly. "But I wish to be honorable so I can do my duty. Brianna is helping me and I have the words of the former Shepherd, but I am not sure if that's enough. Can you help me understand?"

"I'm...Umm..." she began, and said to him, slowly, "I'm not sure if it is my place to do so."

"Whose place is it?" he asked.

"It would be the head of your family. Your grandfather or father," she said, quickly.

Roy looked away. There was nothing new to look at in that direction either. Just prairie grass that blew about in the wind, blue sky and the odd cloud for as far as the eye could see.

"I don't have anybody like that," he said, quietly. "I don't know my father. I'm one of those rare cases that I told you about."

"Oh...You have no family?" asked, Delfina, sadly.

"My mother passed when I was young," he said, distantly. "She never told me who my father was. The Shepherd's guild took me in once they learned of what I could do, but it never felt like a family to me like it did to some of the others. I didn't come from one of the Shepherd families. I was looked down upon. I had no marriage prospects. I had few friends, though some, but they're very far away now. You talked about banishment and that does happen. It happened to me. I was banished for doing my job too well. For not letting the crimes of who I judged slide. I didn't accept their lies of the dead or the money of the living. Where I come from, that's custom. That's why I'm here. It never felt right."

"Wait, you were banished for being honorable?" asked Delfina, her tone confused.

Roy took a long time in answering. Delfina was patient with him like he'd been with her, and she did not press him for answers.

"I don't know about Horse Clan honor, but as far as Shepherd's honor goes, yes. Part of why I was banished was for being a good Shepherd," he said, sadly. "I did my job too well. Being sent away was my punishment."

Delfina began to reach for him as they rode together. The horses had moved closer together so it was possible. However, she paused and pulled her hand back.

"I'm sorry, Shepherd Roy. I want to comfort you, but I can't accept your dishonor," she said, sadly. "Please forgive me."

Roy smiled sadly and waved her off with his metal hand.

"It's fine," he said, with a small chuckle, "I'm used to it. I can really only touch people when I'm treating them. I appreciate the thought though. It means a lot to me."

And it did. He was used to so little that even that small act of kindness, tainted as it was by his position, lifted his heart. Shepherd Roy Whitaker was a man who was used to taking what he could get. She looked at his metal hand and then back up to him, her eyes wide.

"Wait. That is tech. Is it part of you or not?" she asked, quickly.

He laughed at little and flexed the metal digits of his hand. They whirred and clanked ever so slightly.

"No," he said, "It's not just my hand. It's my arm. My old arm was iron and it never really felt like a part of me. It was really heavy. This new steel one doesn't feel like a part of me either. It's metal. It's there to help me do my job. It connects at my shoulder. That's the closest real part that's left of my arm."

"You do not lie about this?" she asked, warily. "I would normally not ask, but..."

"No," he interrupted," I don't consider it a part of myself. It's a tool. I can take it off if need be."

Before he could react she seized his metal hand with her real one. Then, smart young woman that she was, she lightly tugged on his metal arm. When Brianna shook his hand, she didn't fear touching him. Delfina did fear the dishonor of a Shepherd's touch, his touch, but she risked it anyway. After all of that talk about dishonor, she found a compromise. So gently, over and over again, she tugged on his arm. He felt what little she could give him through his shoulder. It was too much. All of that talk about his years of isolation, of neglect and loneliness had dredged those awful feelings of his to the surface. More recently, he remembered all of those unofficial talks he'd received from senior Shepherds about getting in line. All the way up to the last time he ignored those with authority over him which earned him his banishment to this place.

In the badlands, plants can go for months without rain and yet they grow. They do so by drinking greedily and conserving water. Roy was little different. Kindness was like water in a dry land. He drank deeply of what little of that kindness that she could offer. His heart broke and he wept. Delfina let go and rode beside him and witnessed his tears. The horses did not stop, for they followed the path. His task could not wait and so he rode while weak and emotionally wounded. It had been so long since Roy had been shown such kindness that even the smallest ounce of it caused him to break down.

No CYOA Yet

Wanted to break this up so people would have something to read and not be subjected to one big post.

Ice Phisherman fucked around with this message at Apr 29, 2018 around 06:59

Groetgaffel
Oct 30, 2011

Groetgaffel smacked the living shit out of himself doing 297 points of damage.

Nap Ghost

Oh Roy!

drat IP, you're just too good at dredging up emotions from this cold goon heart of mine.

RickVoid
Oct 21, 2010


Yeah, that's about what I was expecting from Roy's backstory.

I think Roy's gonna do okay out here, provided he spends the requesite amount of time with his head down, mouth shut, and ears open to learn the rules. He's the right sort of person to do well in this kind of society.

Delfina for BFF... Because Brianna is the one true Immortal Waifu.

jagadaishio
Jun 25, 2013

I don't care if it's ethical; I want a Mammoth Steak.


I disagree, and here's why.

Brianna will outlive him. I don't think he'd be comfortable with the idea of dying without having been able to make sure that his significant other made it to the Fields.

He's the type of person to want to shoulder the burden of surviving his SO.

But, then, he's got an extremely limited pool of eligible bachelorettes, so I thing his other choice might be solitude.

RickVoid
Oct 21, 2010


jagadaishio posted:

I disagree, and here's why.

Brianna will outlive him. I don't think he'd be comfortable with the idea of dying without having been able to make sure that his significant other made it to the Fields.

He's the type of person to want to shoulder the burden of surviving his SO.

But, then, he's got an extremely limited pool of eligible bachelorettes, so I thing his other choice might be solitude.

Things and people near her don't age either. Problem fuckin' solved.

Edit: Real talk, this sounds like Trouble territory, which is great for the story. To wit: Roy's whole point of existence is to send the souls of the Dead to an afterlife. Brianna will not die of natural causes (and we don't yet know how any of the other sort would effect her), and if he stays with her, neither will he. So here's a potential trouble, how does Roy, a literal Grim Reaper, feel about immortality?

RickVoid fucked around with this message at Apr 28, 2018 around 21:23

jagadaishio
Jun 25, 2013

I don't care if it's ethical; I want a Mammoth Steak.


If he's away from her he'll slip away days and weeks at a time. He'd only be free of aging if he literally never left her side. I've got a feeling that Shepherds and god-conduits have somewhat different touring schedules.

I mean, I'm on board for Roy and Brianna hooking up and making some mistakes with each other. But I don't think they're going to work in the end because for someone with the literal power to send someone to heaven or hell, it actually is better to outlive your loved ones, because you can take their care into your own hands.

RickVoid
Oct 21, 2010


jagadaishio posted:

If he's away from her he'll slip away days and weeks at a time. He'd only be free of aging if he literally never left her side. I've got a feeling that Shepherds and god-conduits have somewhat different touring schedules.

I mean, I'm on board for Roy and Brianna hooking up and making some mistakes with each other. But I don't think they're going to work in the end because for someone with the literal power to send someone to heaven or hell, it actually is better to outlive your loved ones, because you can take their care into your own hands.

I actually agree with you, but I'm here to create troubles and read updates.

And I'm all out of updates.

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Roy

"So your magic is only death magic?" asked Delfina, curiously.

Roy had put himself back together and though he was feeling like a hide scraped raw, he felt better nonetheless. As if some accumulated awfulness had been scraped away.

"Yes. I can't heal people with a touch," said Roy. "I'm a doctor. I heal people with my knowledge, tools and medicine. There is an exception though. I can keep people from dying and I can kill some sicknesses in limited circumstances."

Delfina tilted her head, curiously.

"That's not healing?" he asked.

"No," he said.

He shook his head, but his voice was cheery now despite the topic. Something felt right. He felt truly alive for the first time in a long time.

"Let's say that someone loses a lot of blood," he continued. "Enough to kill them. I could prevent them from dying even though they didn't have enough blood in their bodies to survive. As long as I can stay focused and awake, I can keep someone alive long enough for their body to make new blood or to have a donor replace their blood with the right tools and right match. In another case, sometimes surgery can be traumatic enough to kill someone. That's not possible with me. I think that one of the reasons that people fear a Shepherd's touch is that we bring pain. Pain means you're alive. If there's too much, if someone is lucky, they'll pass out. If not they won't and they'll have to endure the pain of not being able to die. There's no magic in my healing skills and no Shepherd is skilled enough to simply kill the sickness in someone without touching it. So if someone has cancer, I have to look for it and hope that I found it early enough to get it all. That means I have to poke around in someone with a knife. I have to touch the cancer and hope that it hasn't spread to anything vital, then cut it out while I'm already doing a lot of cutting."

Delfina frowned and looked a little ill. She might not scare easily, but the talk was making her queasy.

"That's sounds horrible," she said, honestly.

"Sorry. I got a little carried away. I don't get to talk about this much. But yeah, that's my life," said Roy, wryly. "It's not uncommon for a Shepherd to be seen on the worst day of someone's life or in many cases, death. We practice death magic, we bring awful pain to heal people that medicine can do little to dull and we send people to the Fiery Lake if we think that they're deserving of it. We're necessary, but not well regarded."

"Could you just not be a Shepherd?" asked Delfina.

"No," he said. "Shepherds don't get a choice. I would love to be close to people. To have a wife, children and to put down roots. That's not my life. I don't get to choose."

"But...You protect people from hungry ghosts and demons, right?" she asked.

It was an attempt to make him feel better. To his surprise, it actually did make him feel better.

"Yeah, sort of," he said. "Hungry ghosts are rare, but I'd see a few a year. People who die and aren't judged for long enough go crazy if left for too long. They forget what it's like to be human and they want to remember. They possess people. They're called hungry ghosts because they don't seem to experience hunger. People who are possessed tend to die of dehydration or starvation...Uh...Lack of water or food. I see a couple of possessions a year. Demons on the other hand are people too."

"Really?!" exclaimed Delfina. "They're people? Demons are people?"

"Yes. Demons are spirits who are so crazy that they forget their human shapes," he explained. "Spirits will forget what it's like to be human. They move too fast. They may not touch the ground. For example, newly dead spirits continue to try to breathe and sort of do, but hungry ghosts or spirits that are close to becoming one don't. The longer a spirit lingers in the world the more they forget what it's like to be alive. Usually it takes years for a hungry ghost to become a demon so almost all of them get caught and judged before that happens. It's beyond rare for a Shepherd to see a demon in civilized lands. Spirits stay sane for longer if they're exposed to water, wood or good feelings. However, spirits go insane faster if they are exposed to iron, fire or anger. Bad feelings really, not just anger. They take on those aspects. They become creatures of iron, fire and bad feelings. They're still spirits. Deep down they were people once upon a time. I've never seen one, but I hear that they're very difficult to take down."

"Never?" asked Delfina.

"No, thankfully," said Roy.

Delfina bit her lip and that look caused a creeping dread in Roy's stomach.

"Tell me there aren't demons in One Tree County," he said, quietly.

"I am not a liar," she responded, her tone just as quiet.

Roy wanted to swear, but didn't.

"How many?" he asked.

"Demons?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said breathlessly, for he'd been holding it. "How many demons?"

"Uh..." she began, "In the land of the One Tree, we see demons about once a year, though if we're lucky maybe once every two or three years."

"For just the Horse Clan or the entire county?" he asked.

"County?" she asked, confused. "I don't know this word."

Roy rubbed at his face and tried to contain his despair.

"The land of the One Tree," he said. "All of it. How many demons per year?"

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Word gets around about demon attacks. So like I said. You'll only be expected to fight maybe one a year. If you're lucky, one every two or three years."

This was really a day of ups and downs for Roy. Someone was kind to him. Big plus. Having to someday take down twisted, insane, violent and nightmarish spirits made from iron and fire. Big minus. Again, Roy wanted to swear. Again, he did not want to swear in front of a lady, especially one who had been so kind to him, but he was sorely tempted. He was banished to this place and that meant he'd have to take these demons down with no backup. Roy idly wondered just how big of a badass Maureen Mathers had been to spend thirty years in One Tree County and deal with demons at least once every two to three years. Slowly, he began to understand just how thorough his punishment had been. Most Shepherds went their entire lives without seeing a demon and there were specialists who dealt with them. Roy was not a specialist. Roy was powerful for someone from the capital, but he was no demon hunter.

"Oh, there's the homestead," said Delfina.

She pointed into the distance and there was a tiny speck on the horizon that stood out among the fields.

"I feel like having the wind in my hair," said Roy.

Eager to forget his troubles for a little while, Roy urged Chuck to speed. Chuck the draft horse, who was currently walking, began to trot. Not feeling like this was fast enough, Roy urged him into a canter. He felt the wind in his hair, the bumpy ride of the large draft horse and heard the rhythmic beats of Chuck's hooves on the ill maintained dirt path. Other hoof beats accompanied him and he imagined Delfina's paint horse easily keeping speed behind him. Minutes later he arrived at the dirt road to the homestead, though it could barely be called such and he overshot it a bit. Delfina rode ahead a bit to point it out and Roy slowed his horse. The two rode up to the house, though Delfina kept her distance.

"It's cholera, so stay back please," he said.

"Don't worry about me," she said.

Roy dismounted before the tiny adobe hut. It was in ill repair and heavily cracked. The straw roof was in desperate need of rethatching and the fields around it were not only unsowed, but overgrown. The place stank not only of poverty, but death. They were mercifully upwind of the smell, but it was still powerful.

"I'll stay here out of the miasma," said Delfina.

Many people still thought that bad air was what transmitted disease. This was a common mistake. Cholera was transmitted through drinking contaminated water or food, or by interacting with the fluids of people who had cholera. It was a bad way to die. One depleted themselves of fluids and electrolytes, sometimes within hours. If not treated it was often fatal, and those who didn't know what they were doing and treated a cholera victim almost always became victims themselves.

"Symptoms are severe diarrhea, muscle cramps and vomiting. Secondary symptoms are sunken eyes, cold skin, decreased skin elasticity, wrinkling of the hands and feet and blueish skin from dehydration," he rattled off, by rote. "Considered highly contagious. Incubation time is two to five days."

He reached out with his death magic and sensed the inside of the adobe dwelling. He sensed the bacteria, the insects that fed on the death, one body in the hovel, one small body in a shallow grave and only one spirit instead of two. Still, that didn't keep him from doing what must be done. He took off his black coat, set down his wooden staff on the ground and rolled up the green sleeve of his shirt on his left side to expose where his steel arm met his real shoulder. He flicked off the eight catches where his metal arm was secured. Then with a clack, he yanked it out and pinned his green shirt. Delfina looked at him strangely as he laid his coat and metal arm over Chuck's back.

"Sorry," said Roy. "I forgot to warn you. Most people don't see this. If you want to turn away, I'd understand."

Delfina shook her head.

"I'm curious. I want to see, " she said.

Roy nodded at her once.

"Okay, as long as you're sure," he said, seriously. "I'm going to get rid of the sickness so it'll be safe to walk inside."

"It'll be safe?" she asked.

"Yes, I'll go in when it's safe," he responded.

It felt like stretching after a long day. The arm he used to have, now gone, materialized. It was ghostly, the same color as all spirits, pale white and see through. This was the spirit of his once living arm. When he summoned his arm it forever felt tingly, as if he'd fallen asleep on it. Still, it was his, even if it was just the spirit of his arm. This was a big part of what made Shepherd Roy Whitaker so much more powerful than other Shepherds. The old saying goes that Shepherds have one foot in the grave. This was just a saying, but for Roy, it wasn't a foot. It was whole arm. He looked back at Delfina and though he couldn't see her eyes, he imagined that they'd grown wide from the way that she clutched at her chest.

"Last chance to look away," he warned.

She did not. Instead she continued to stare.

"Delfina?" he asked.

"I want to see," she whispered.

"The horses probably won't want to," said Roy. "Take them further away. Go a few dozen yards so your horse doesn't throw you. Take my horse too."

The horses were not doing well. Animals did not like the use of death magic. It had taken him years to get his old horse, Whisper, to get used to it. While Delfina lead the horses away, he searched through his Shepherd's pack, found an iron coin and his case of cigarettes. He didn't smoke, not really. Roy had no use for tobacco. Half of his cigarettes just contained simple herbs that would burn cleanly. No, the cigarette was his implement of destruction. It could easily contain fire and fill him up with the stuff. To destroy, at least to destroy easily, a Shepherd needed iron, fire and bad thoughts. To preserve, he needed water, wood and good thoughts. He wished to destroy everything living in that house, so he took a cigarette from his metal case and lit it up with an aluminum lighter. He took a puff to fill himself with smoke, which contained the fire. He touched the iron and he drew upon his near endless well of bad thoughts, accrued from a life of hardship and loneliness. He felt the smoke inside of him, lifted his ghostly arm and slowly swept it in the direction of the adobe hovel as he used his death magic.

"Die," was all he said, as he breathed out smoke with the word.

The blast of death magic was intense. He had no need to be precise. The overgrown plants outside withered and died from right to left. The insects that lived in and around the single corpse all died. The cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, died. As quickly as it took to sweep his hand from right to left, everything died, and he felt that death. All that was left was the single spirit, who hadn't noticed at all, for that which was dead could not die again.

Roy stubbed out his cigarette and put it back into the aluminum case with both the normal cigarettes and his corpseroot cigarettes. His iron coin went back into its normal pocket on his Shepherd's pack. The horses whinnied and he looked back. Delfina was staring in open amazement several dozen yards away, which he could tell only because her mouth was wide open. He sighed heavily. This was probably when she would stop talking to him. It was too bad. He liked her, even if she was intense. As far as friends went, Shepherds couldn't be choosers. Still, she had both horses under control and that was good enough for him for the moment. At least he wouldn't have to walk back.

One second he smelled death and instead of the total lack of smell that accompanied a blast of death magic, for strange reason, he smelled cinnamon and strawberries. That was a new one on him. It was just a whiff though, then gone. He wondered if he'd just imagined it. Without another thought about it, for the thought was strangely slippery, he went inside.

He walked into a one room adobe hovel. There was no more smell nor risk of infection. No flying insects nor creeping. Everything was sterile. There were two beds of straw, one big enough for an adult and one big enough for a child. They were heavily stained. One adult sized corpse was curled into the fetal position upon the larger of the two. There were some tools on metal hooks on the wall. They looked in ill repair. There was also a small, dented, aluminum chest which may house some personal effects. Unlike some other Shepherds, Roy was no scavenger and was therefore uninterested in stealing from the dead. Instead he looked down and spied the little girl who sat facing the corner furthest away from her body. Her knees were hugged up to her chest and her chin was on top of them.

Roy absolutely hated dealing with dead kids. Not because he didn't like kids. He did. It was the dead part that bothered him. A lifetime could have been before them, but tragedy cut all of that potential short. He sighed and the girl's face turned. Her face was indistinct, as the faces of all spirits were, but her hair was long, her body small and she was dressed in the simple dress she died in. Though it was not rotted away like on the corpse.

"Hello little girl," said Roy, gently. "What's your name?"

He tried not to sound sad. These things went easier if he could stay positive. Children almost always went to the fields. He'd never had to send a single one to the Fiery Lake, and hoped he wouldn't have to. This girl had been left alone for three weeks though. He hoped he wasn't too late. Insanity could only be purged by the Fiery Lake.

"Go away," she said.

Her voice was raspy, like tearing cloth.

"My name is Roy," he continued, calmly. "I'm here to help you."

"You can't help me. I'm dead. Just go away," she said, quietly.

"I can't do that," said Roy. "I know you're dead. I can st-..."

He sniffed once and he kept himself from stuttering. Roy reached deep down into himself and focused his will. It was nothing magic. It was grit. He steeled himself and ruthlessly stuffed down his sadness. He'd seen this a hundred times and it never got easier. In fact, though he didn't want to admit it to himself, it was only getting harder as he got older.

"I can still help you," he finished. "I'm a Shepherd. I'm here to judge you."

The girl looked away, but then stood up. The movement was too fast, which unnerved him. She was forgetting how a person moved. How a person would stand up from the ground, bending at the knees, using their hands, their core, their entire body, really, all of their muscles, the subtle movements to keep balance that living people did automatically. Instead she lifted up like a marionette, as if pulled by the strings of an unseen puppeteer. However, now that she was on her feet she walked normally once again. She wasn't hungry, not yet, but a few more days and she probably would be.

"You're a Shepherd?" she asked.

"Yes. I'm Roy. What's your name?" he asked.

She thought about it for a while. It took a few minutes, which made him doubt if she'd gone hungry or not. Hungry ghosts never remembered their names.

"Joy," she said. "My name is Joy."

Roy sighed with relief.

"Okay Joy," he said. "I'm here to judge you. Are you ready?"

He went to one knee on the bare dirt floor of the adobe hovel to be at eye level with her, though her eyes were indistinct, as if hidden behind a haze, same as her mouth, nose and ears.

"Roy rhymes with Joy," she said, happily.

Emotionally raw as he was from Delfina's kindness, it was hard to hold back tears.

"It sure does, Joy," he said, his voice rough. "It sure does. You're very smart."

"Thank you," said Joy.

Joy bobbed in a small curtsy of respect, though her hands flowed through the hem of her dress. She didn't seem to notice.

"Okay Joy," Roy continued. "I'm just going to ask you a few questions. Can you answer some questions for me?"

"Okay, Roy," said Joy.

"Okay, good," said Roy.

Roy and Joy talked for a while. He went through the normal questions for a child. The order didn't really matter so he stayed away from the subject of her mother and father for a while as he didn't want to upset her. Spirits that were upset may refuse to answer questions. However, answer questions she did. She'd never been mean to animals. She always did her chores. She didn't steal anything. She was nice to people who visited. On and on, a litany of questions with answers that he found to his liking. Finally, he came to the subject of her parents.

"Were you respectful to your father?" he asked.

"I don't remember daddy," she said. "I only remember my mommy."

"Okay sweetheart," said Roy, gently. "Were you nice to your mommy?"

"I guess so. I haven't seen her in a long time," said Joy.

"Well you've been dead for about three weeks. That must seem like a long time," said Roy, carefully.

The spirit shook her head in negation so fast that it blurred and her long hair made a cloud behind her, which greatly unnerved Roy. However, he didn't let it show. He was a professional after all. She stopped suddenly.

"Mommy died a few years ago," said Joy.

Roy's brow furrowed and he looked towards the dead adult body on the ground. The corpse was in a heavily stained dress and looked vaguely female from what hair was left.

"My aunt Mable," said the spirit, angrily. "She killed mommy. She and uncle Peter did. They took me away from my home. They think I didn't remember, but I do. I remember. I never forgot even though she pretended to be mommy and he pretended to be daddy."

Roy kept a lid on his anger, but only just.

"Your aunt and uncle killed your mommy, is that right, Joy?" asked Roy, quietly.

"Yes. The other Shepherd came by and judged uncle Peter," said Joy, fiercely. "She sent him to the Fiery Lake for a long time. Aunt Mable didn't leave. We stayed here. Then I died. Then she died. Then she went away and left me alone. Is it bad if I wasn't nice to them? My aunt and uncle?"

Roy took in a deep breath and sighed. He shook his head.

"No sweetheart," he said, and the barest hint of anger slipped into his tone. "I won't be mad if you didn't like them. I don't think I like them very much either."

"Good," snarled Joy. "Because I hate them. They killed my mommy and took me from my home."

The spirit's raspy voice contained all of the naked hatred that only a child could muster. Still, those sorts of bad feelings were normal. It was all consuming bad feelings that would require a trip to the Fiery Lake. Roy felt his own anger welling up in him that he was unused to. Murders were rare even in dense population centers. A kinslaying on top of that made it worse, but stealing a child was awful. He thought back to Maureen Mathers' journal and had an idea.

"Joy, how many years ago did your uncle Peter die?" he asked.

Joy had to think about this for a long time. Many, many minutes went by before she finally responded.

"A long time," she said.

Roy suppressed a grimace and tried again.

"Do you remember what time of year it was? Was it really hot or cold?" asked Roy.

"Yeah!" she exclaimed. "Really hot!"

That would probably be all he would get from her on the topic. The journal was a big book. It contained thirty years worth of cramped handwriting. Still, he couldn't fully take the word of a single spirit, no matter if he believed her. He wasn't infallible and spirits could lie, though he couldn't imagine why Joy would do so. He would be patient, he would read, he would confirm this information and then he would stand to make a fair judgement.

"Joy, did you see which way your aunt Mable went?" he asked. "She's not close. I can't find her."

Her head blurred as it bobbed up and down and the cloud of hair returned. Her hand exploded in motion from her side to an outstretched arm with an outstretched finger, faster than the quickest draw of a pistol. The little spirit pointed due south. He made a mental note of it.

"Okay Joy," he said, "I've made my decision about you. It's a good one. Are you ready?"

She stood completely still for a time, which was worrying. People don't stand completely still. They breathe and their balance shifts. New spirits still did this, but Joy still as a stone. Roy was so very grateful that he'd made it to her in time. He didn't want to send a child down the Lake, even if just for a few days to clear up her insanity.

"Yes," she rasped.

He extended his ghostly arm to her, hand open.

"Do you want to take my hand?" asked Roy, so very gently.

She cocked her head at his hand.

"I can't touch you though," said Joy.

"You can touch my hand," prompted Roy.

Tentatively, and gently, the spirit of the dead little girl placed her tiny hand in Roy's own. Even though his hand felt like it was asleep, he could still feel her touch. Just barely. This was a big part of what had gotten him through the years of isolation. It was the touch, however faint, of a good soul.

"Joy, you are a good little girl," said Roy, his voice rough with emotion. "You have a good soul. Much wrong was done to you, but I'm going to send you to a place of peace, love and...Well...Joy. And it'll be a little bit more joyful now that you'll be there. If your mommy and daddy aren't there now, they will be one day. All who you love will be there."

He stood up from his kneeling position and pulled her up with him. Joy's feet left the ground, not like a marionette being pulled by strings, but by Roy. It was a gentle pull upwards. Each Shepherd had their own way of sending souls to the afterlife. This was Roy's. He lifted them up and into the light.

"Will my mommy be there?" asked Joy.

"If she's not there now, she will be one day," said Roy.

"You promise?" asked Joy.

Roy smiled at her.

"I promise," he said, and meant it.

Her face, though still indistinct, cracked into a smile. Her first.

"Thank you, Shepherd Roy," she whispered.

Joy slowly continued to float upwards towards the top of the adobe hovel and Roy looked up at her translucent body. However, he didn't see the thatched roof of the hovel that was full of rotten straw. All Roy could see was light.

"You're welcome, Joy. My judgement is that you shall go to the Fields where you shall reside forever," he said, quietly. "Where you shall not know a single day of pain or hardship. They will seem like distant memories. All of those that you love will be there one day and there will be good people there to keep you company. New friends to make. A peaceful existence."

The spirit's fingers slipped from the fingers of his own shimmering hand. She went up into the light and for a short time, Roy saw the Fields. Green grass, tall trees, bright light and blue water. Someone was on the other side, waiting for her, and Joy went to the waiting spirit. The two spirits waved at him and Roy waved back with his spirit arm. Then the light faded and he was left in the dirty, stained hovel with a dead body. All was ugliness now, for what could compare to the Fields? He tried to leave, but bumped into Delfina and she backed up. Her straw hat was in her hands, her shoulder length black hair was lank from sweat, her brown eyes were wide, pupils fully dilated and her mouth was agape.

"Delfina, did you see all of that?" he asked, his voice emotionless.

She gave him a tiny nod.

"Okay, this house is sterile, but you shouldn't have come in here. Cholera kills people," he explained, completely dispassionately.

He barely felt anything, much less the will to chastise her. She finally closed her mouth and licked her lips. Suddenly she looked ashamed and looked down as she fidgeted with her straw hat.

"You destroyed the miasma," she whispered. "I couldn't smell it. You said it was safe to go in once you did and I was curious."

Roy felt the urge to tell her that cholera was caused by small creatures called bacteria, not miasma. However, he was too out of sorts to indulge in the urge.

"Fair enough," he said. "I suppose I did tell you it was safe. I wasn't lying."

She took an involuntary step back as she remembered something.

"You..." she began, and gulped, "You killed the grass around the hut. With just a wave of your hand. Can you...Can you do that to people?"

Roy really wasn't ready to speak to her. She was requesting answers from him when everything he saw in the world was ugly. It would take him some time to come back to his normal state of mind. For now, he barely cared about anything.

"Shepherds don't kill people," said Roy, his tone distant. "Not ever. The old empire was built on the twin backs of death magic and misery. That's why it rose and that's why it fell. I know where that path leads. Shepherds don't kill people. It's forbidden."

Necromancers do. That was what Shepherd Roy Whitaker didn't say. The jump from Shepherd to necromancer was no great leap, but it was a long perilous fall.

"I need quiet for a while and then I'm gong to need to read. Is there any shade around here?" he asked.

"Nothing but the home," she said.

"Then I guess I'm staying here for a bit," he said, quietly.

"In the shadow of a dead person's home?" she asked, her tone quietly horrified.

Roy sat down against the cracked adobe.

"It's fine," he said. "The sickness is all dead. The spirit is gone. Things are ugly inside, but there's nothing to fear from this place anymore. Someone will need to bury this body, but that's all."

And so, after a few minutes of silent deliberation, Delfina joined him. They both sat in the shadow of a cracked adobe hovel where the corpses of a little girl and the woman who stole her lay on beds of rotten straw. Roy tried to acclimate himself to the world. He tried to see the beauty in it, and in time he would, but for now, everything was ugly.

"Shepherd Roy," began Delfina, hesitantly. "This might sound odd, but has anyone ever told you how good you smell?"

Roy was too lost in his thoughts to care.

Still writing. This is a long scene. Apologies.

Ice Phisherman fucked around with this message at May 6, 2018 around 03:39

Hexenritter
May 20, 2001

Buncha slack-jawed faggots around here

Don't you dare apologise, that was heart rending and beautiful in a way I very rarely get to read.

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Secret Art: Toxic Crotch Whirlwind!

Hoo boy. Trouble's brewing.

cigaw
Sep 13, 2012


That was wonderful, Ice. The imagery is fantastic!

As if Roy didn't have to deal with enough crap, now we learn he actually gets glimpses into the perfection of the Fields (and probably the foul damnation of the Lakes) whenever he does his job. How the hell can real life compare to what he has seen? Poor dude.

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Hexenritter posted:

Don't you dare apologise, that was heart rending and beautiful in a way I very rarely get to read.



cigaw posted:

That was wonderful, Ice. The imagery is fantastic!

Thank you.

quote:

As if Roy didn't have to deal with enough crap, now we learn he actually gets glimpses into the perfection of the Fields (and probably the foul damnation of the Lakes) whenever he does his job. How the hell can real life compare to what he has seen? Poor dude.

Yeah, seeing the analogues for heaven and hell screw him up for a bit. In this case, he Flowers for Algernons his sense of beauty. Not forever, but it screws with his sense of scale.

Ice Phisherman fucked around with this message at Apr 29, 2018 around 03:25

jagadaishio
Jun 25, 2013

I don't care if it's ethical; I want a Mammoth Steak.


Kids are always the hardest kind of calls, no matter what field you're in.

Bear Enthusiast
Mar 20, 2010

I just want to start a flame in your heart, if you know what I mean.


Lipstick Apathy

Roy is able to wave to them, does that mean more complex information can be transmitted from the Fields? Teach someone semaphore before they die and then tell them to be on the lookout, send back some hot details about the afterlife.

This is mostly a joke, but in actuality I'm curious if every Shepherd sees that clearly and if communication is possible.

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Secret Art: Toxic Crotch Whirlwind!

It sounds like Roy might have even more of a connection to the afterlife than other Shepards. His ghost arm seems to indicate that he's quite special, at least.

Deadmeat5150
Nov 21, 2005

OLD MAN YELLS AT CLAN


Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou

I was in public when I read both of those! Big strapping trucker openly weeping over his phone because when Im this tired my emotions are raw.

Delphina for BFF

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Maureen

Judged a spirit by the name of Peter Smith today. Didn't like him. Couldn't get his story straight after repeated asking of the same questions. His telling would change each time. Added a year in the Fiery Lake for every time he lied to me. Stupid man worked up quite the sum at the end, more than the killing and kidnapping that he participated in. The kidnapping was premeditated but the killing he admitted to seemed to have happened by accident and I am inclined to believe him. He nearly doubled his time in the Fiery Lake by lying to me along with his crimes. He earned himself a hundred and twelve years total. His wife attempted to bribe me. That's been happening more and more lately as settlers move in. I thought I was rid of that after being banished. Turns out that I just outran it for a while.

I have no legal powers over the laws of men and they technically fall under the laws of Iron Hill, as One Tree County has been officially annexed as part of the greater territory as of last month. Otherwise I would've just found a few men from the Horse Clan to relieve Joy, the little girl, from her "mother", one Mable Smith.

Instead I have to talk to the marshal even though these people are settling at the very edge of Horse Clan land. I've met Marshal Eskin some years ago and I must say that I am not impressed. He lacks a certain quality and substance one finds in a man, but often finds in the leavings of a horse. In fact, I daresay if I stacked horseshit as high as Ralph Eskin I might very well create his twin. Like some sort of horseshit homunculus.

Heh. Horseshit homunculus. I slay me. I've got to remember that one. Most folk won't understand it, but they'll get a piece, and on the right person that'll land damned hard. You've got to make your own fun out here. Or at least that's what Bri says.

I do not expect much from him, but I must try. If I simply steal the girl from the "mother" and she goes crying to the marshal, he may try to start a scrap with the Horse Clan. Marshal Eskin has very little interest in the law, but is eager to shed blood so long as he outnumbers people three to one. In any case, I would prefer a solution that doesn't end in blood as she can not be intimidated to part with the girl. I will see if I can find a peaceful solution as I refuse to bribe Eskin to do his damned job.

Going to speak to Tina to apply pressure on the mother. Lack of easy access to trade may break her will with time. Iron Hill is four days away by horseback unless one goes through the badlands which is often a death sentence for those who do not know the way. Mable Smith has no horse and does not know the badlands. With any luck this will resolve itself.

- Maureen Mathers, June 17th, 513 AE

Roy

Roy closed Maureen Mathers' journal and stuffed it in his travel pack. It had taken two hours to find the passage and the time he took fully cleared his head of the sight of the Fields. If he'd been more attentive, he'd have noticed the constant stolen glances from his guide, Delfina. If he'd been more used to the attentions of women, he would have noticed the flush of her cheeks, the repeated glances that gave way to open staring or the way she bit her lower lip when she looked at him. However, he was a man with a mission and that meant doing his job right. So he was not distracted. He focused on learning about and seeking out the hungry ghost that used to be the spirit of of one Mable Smith, murderess, kinslayer and child thief.

"Delfina, what is the closest homestead to the south of here?" he asked.

Her brows knit with concentration as the two sat against the adobe hovel.

"Hmm...There's a couple that lives about three miles away. I don't really know them well," she said. "The husband only comes to town once a month to trade and keeps to himself. No path."

"Right," he said. "This time it isn't safe. I'm going to be hunting a hungry ghost. Odds are it's possessed someone by now. That means that they're going to be wandering around. It might be violent. I should be able to deal with it pretty easily if it hasn't possessed someone, but if it has, and I'm afraid that's likely, that's trickier. You should go home."

Deflina shook her head at him. It was both in negation and slight exasperation.

"No. You'll probably get lost," responded Delfina. "It's not straight south from here. If you get lost on the prairie you could die. That is unless you know how to orient yourself."

She pointed to the badlands to the north and to the one tree which stretched high into the sky above it. Roy looked at it for the first time and was impressed. He'd been so focused on what was in front of him that he only now spied it. Its canopy was simply enormous. He had no idea how tall it was or how far away it was, only that it was indeed tall and far away.

"That's north. Sometimes that's all you get out here," said Delfina. "But you can't get to the homestead by wandering south and if the ghost isn't there you won't know where to go. You'll just be wandering around."

Roy had no rebuttal. He probably get back, but he'd be wasting time. His senses for finding death were fairly short and using those senses on the back of an untrained horse meant he'd be down an arm and would probably spook it. Animals hated any use of death magic, even just using his senses. Roy didn't want to admit to the inevitable, but time was wasting. He needed Delfina.

"Fine," said Roy. "I want you to stay twenty feet back at all times unless I call for you. Under no circumstances are you to try to come and help me even if things look bad. Angry spirits in people move fast and hit hard. Human bodies have limits to keep them from hurting themselves. Spirits ignore those limits. Hopefully it won't come to that and the spirit will just be confused, but from what I've read I'm not sure if the spirit will be violent or not. Violent acts in life lead to violent spirits in death. You should be able to get away easily on that paint of yours if things get bad. Speaking of which, thanks for feeding and watering the horses."

Delfina didn't show fear at all, which he found strange as he was feeling some fear, though he'd dealt with this dozens of times. Instead she smiled at him at batted her lashes.

"Twenty feet away. Okay. I understand," she said, throatily. "You're welcome for the horses. Anything for you, Shepherd Roy. I'll just go get their nosebags."

Roy was momentarily confused by her tone. He was beginning to get a handle on her lack of fear and was impressed, but he had a job to do and didn't allow himself to distracted. That was getting harder, as there was a certain sway to her hips which he found pleasant. He closed his eyes and shut away thoughts of that. He was still a man, but most women were simply off limits to him.

"What's getting into me today?" he grumped.

Soon enough they were saddled up. He left his arm off, but dispelled his ghostly arm so as not to spook the horses. Oddly, he had an easy time of getting onto the horse, even one handed. He folded and stowed his steel arm in his pack in its travel form and took his Shepherd's staff in hand. Again, he was focused, otherwise he would have stopped to admire his feat of strength, for getting onto a tall horse with one hand when you're used to two is difficult. They headed south through the waist high grass on horseback, for there was no path. It didn't even take long before they stopped, only half a mile. In the distance was a single person who was walking through the grass. He called Delfina forward and she was there a few seconds later. He pointed at her.

"Do you recognize her?" he asked.

Delfina shook her head.

"The dead usually return to a familiar place and she's coming back the way we came. If we go straight would we make it to the homestead?" he asked.

"Yes," she said. "The Walton homestead. I don't know them very well though. She should be riding a horse. It's a long walk to anywhere around here, and on top of a horse you can see landmarks better. The One Tree helps everyone orient themselves, but not perfectly."

Delfina was very close to him. Close enough to inhale his scent, which she did. Roy didn't notice. The wind wasn't great for this, but at least it was blowing in the right direction, south towards the woman. He still needed his cigarettes for offense and defense. Again he went into his pack, pulled out his aluminum cigarette case and took one of his corpseroot cigarettes between his lips. His other kind. The kind that spirits hated. It tasted and smelled foul to him, even unlit. It was an herb that had all of the qualities of a cat. The taste and smell, he imagined, was like the backside while the smoke was as smooth as the tongue. If he hated it, spirits hated it even more and it would drive one away or even out of a living body if they were in the smoke for too long. The chance of that was small though as the wind was high. Sufficed to say, his cigarette would stay unlit until he absolutely needed it.

"Remember her first name?" he said, around the cigarette.

Delfina shook her head.

"Sorry, it's mostly her husband that comes to town," she said.

"Okay, ride up, ride close enough to be seen and heard. This may be a misunderstanding, but if it's not then I don't want you getting hurt. Don't interfere," he ordered.

She bit her lip again and nodded dreamily.

"Okay, Shepherd Roy. I will," she whispered.

Roy was momentarily distracted again, but said nothing. Women didn't stare at him like that. He only knew what it meant on the primal level and not from some wealth of experience. He'd been with a few women in the past, but it had been a long time.

"Right," he said, slowly. "Anyway, we'll ride up a ways. I'll dismount and walk up. You keep a hand on my horse when I dismount so he doesn't bolt."

And so they did. They rode up to about fifty feet of the woman. Roy dismounted and left his wooden staff with Delfina. That was an implement of preservation. If he needed to exorcise a spirit it would only get in the way. The woman who was in a plain white blouse and a blue skirt, didn't seem to notice either of them. She was blonde, meaning not from the Horse Clan, who almost all had dark hair, and badly sunburned from what Roy could see.

"Mrs. Walton!" shouted Roy.

He was about twenty feet away from her and she didn't respond even though he looked at her. He cradled his lighter from the wind and lit up. The smell of a cat's rear end from the corpseroot cigarette filled his senses. Oddly, he didn't cough like he normally did after the first drag.

"My name is Shepherd Roy Whitaker!" he exclaimed around the cigarette. "I'm the replacement for Maureen Mathers! I have reason to believe that a hungry ghost passed this way! Might I ask what you're doing out here so far from your homestead and without a horse?"

She didn't respond, but she did look at him. Her head snapped towards him like a bird of prey and cocked to the side like a dog focusing on a noise. Roy took another puff as he readied himself to take a deep drag. Now he was almost sure that she was possessed.

"Ma'am, if you do not respond immediately I will have to treat you as one possessed by a hungry ghost!" he exclaimed.

She walked towards him. He took a hard drag off his cigarette and filled his lungs with the noxious fumes now that he was acclimated to the smell and taste. At least as acclimated as he was going to get. Downwind as she was, he gauged the wind, lifted the cigarette and the noxious yellow smoke hit her hard in the face. She backed off, which was not strange at all considering the smell. However, the screech of rage from the woman was the telltale sign of an enraged hungry ghost. She bolted towards him. Arms and legs pumping, tendons stretched beyond their limits and at risk of snapping in half. He had only seconds to prepare for her. So he made sure his footing was good, crouched down, summoned his arm and hid the majority of it inside of his own body save for a slight shimmering near his shoulder, as it was incorporeal.

Screeching and sprinting, the blonde, heavily sunburned young woman, a hostage of the hungry ghost, came within feet of him. He sprang his attack. He flicked the cigarette at her. She dodged it and it broke the power of her sprint. He spat the smoke to stop her. The yellow fumes hit her full in the face before being pulled away by the winds across the prairie. She coughed, screeched and waved wildly at the air. While she was distracted, his spirit hand emerged from his chest, a surprise attack. Feeling like a man ten years younger for he was unknowingly blessed by the Horse Maiden, he struck out. He lunged forward, went for the throat with an open hand and grabbed her. He didn't grab Mrs. Walton. No, this was his spirit hand. His dead hand. It could only touch the dead. He grabbed the hungry ghost once known as Mable Smith by the neck and yanked it bodily out of the living woman. Mrs. Walton collapsed, her fall cushioned by the waist high grass. The hungry ghost spat and screamed, though now that scream sounded like endlessly tearing cloth. Its body blurred, but Roy gave it shake by the neck and it went limp and still. It was under his power now. It was his to sentence as he saw fit.

"Judgement begins now," said the Shepherd.

CYOA Time

We're going to have two votes:

1. The woman is suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and sun poisoning (basically bad sun burns). Roy can treat the dehydration on the spot from his kit (Shepherd's secret powder Not Pedialyte ). She's not going to die, but she can't walk under her own power as she is passed out. Do we take the woman home or do we take her back to Esfuerzo? Roy is going to have to put her on the horse and walk next to her for the rest of the way, so it's going to take a while no matter what as the saddle can only handle one person at a time. Two and a half miles to the homestead with no path. About three miles to Esfuerzo with a path half a mile away. She's in need of bed rest and medical care. What do we do?

2. Sentencing the spirit.

We're going to sentence our first spirit to the Fiery Lake. Here's what we know she's guilty of:

1. Kidnapping. Up to thirty years per charge. One charge.
2. Involuntary manslaughter (Maureen deemed the killing to be an accident, though while committing a crime). Up to five years per charge. One charge.
3. Kinslaying. Up to thirty years per charge. One charge.
4. Attacking a Shepherd. Up to five years per charge. One charge.
5. Possession of the living. Up to five years per charge. One charge.

Also, she's insane, so she's going to get a month to clear that up no matter what as that's from the moment she died plus a week to be sure. Insanity is no defense from the Fiery Lake. In fact, that's one of the reasons it exists. Spirits are made sane and stay sane through their punishment. However, they also get to leave...Or they don't.

A Shepherd can sentence someone to the Fiery Lake forever. They have to justify themselves to the guild at some point every time they do it. Lots of...Well...Not paperwork, but claywork since letters are clay. Any dead spirit can be sent there forever if their crimes are deemed heinous enough. What's deemed "heinous enough" is up to the thread as Roy has been banished and is basically a law unto himself right now as far as the dead are concerned. It's one of the few tools in the Shepherd's arsenal to really scare the poo poo out of the most vile people. Eternal suffering. But it's rare. Think of the Fiery Lake less as a permanent hell and more like a crucible. It burns away impurities, meaning all the awfulness of a person. If Roy ever sentences someone to the Fiery Lake forever, eventually a pure soul is going to be tortured. Keep that in mind. If you vote for permanent sentencing and it doesn't win, I assume you want the maximum.

Please be respectful for peoples' reasoning. It's okay to disagree, but this is just a story.

On a story level, keep in mind that if he does this too often or he sentences someone for a crime that is deemed "too light" he'll get a bad reputation and his relationship with everyone will suffer.

On the flip side, we can also waive these charges or even add more charges to them. Just let me know.

I'm going to be averaging everyone's votes for sentencing.

--

The horse maiden rolls to give Roy a bonus to his charms with the opposite sex. As this is under passion, he's also going to get a heaping helping of personal power from the cinnamon incense.

The Horse Maiden rolls +2 for her bonus and +1 for Brianna's relationship with him. The Horse Maiden wants the blessing to linger and give a +4 temporary quality which I'll call manly virility, so she needs to meet or beat a 9. For a single scene with a +2 bonus all that's needed for a single person would be a target number 5. I raise the number to a +4 for another 2 on the target number. However, this is going to last until he leaves Esfuerzo and I raise it yet another 2 to make it linger. The Horse Maiden only rolls a 7. The blessing works, but she's messing with him. The women are going to love Roy. He is going to smell GOOD. Manly musk and all that. The men not so much. He's going to get a -2 malus with all of the men and a +4 bonus with all women until he leaves Esfuerzo. However, if the task isn't gendered and has to do with his strength or passion, he'll still receive a +4 bonus.

In short, Roy is going to be manly as hell for a while.

This is going to mess with Brianna as well. However, she'll be aware of what's happening and why. On top of this, she's going to have a ton of Tequila Charmine inside of her. Not enough to make her drunk, but juuuuuust to the ragged edge of what she can tolerate while keeping her wits. A single drop more would make her drunk. This gives her power over men, dark red lips and temptation.

Roy rolls to disinfect the homestead. This is fairly trivial at a 7 since he just blasts it with area death magic. He gets a 10. It's still a mess inside. He finds the little girl who is scared. Roy rolls his +4 Shepherd power. The little girl is not a woman, but he is passionate about his job, so the roll is gender neutral. He gets a +4 virility bonus and gets a +2 from the book. This was lucky as I rolled a 2 on the dice. He needed a 9 and got a 12.

He takes some time and reads Maureen's notes. Joy is young, she's only been here for a few years and so he flips to the back of the book. There she is, noted. Maureen reported the kidnapping to the marshal, who hasn't done anything. Maureen also tried to talk to the Horse Clan, but this is just outside of their lands. So she had to wait until someone died. This was Joy. Joy was kidnapped a few years ago. The "mother" couldn't have a child and so she stole Joy from her sister. Joy died. Her kidnapper of an aunt died. Her uncle died a few years back which is where the original notes came from. Everyone is dead. However, the dead linger.

The aunt buried Joy, but died afterwards. Her body is here, but her spirit is not, which is weird. Roy asks Delfina if there are any other homesteads or farms nearby. The closest is a mile away, and they ride for there. There they find a young woman wandering around in a field. Roy instantly marks her as possessed. I initiate combat.

The aunt is a +2 spirit. A single hit and she goes down. However, Roy can't just shoot her. If a spirit possesses someone, they basically take a hostage. Roy has to make sure not to injure the woman.

Roy attempts to negotiate with the woman, but she's went hungry and is beyond reason. Still, he has to try. She charges Roy. Not like a person, but like an animal. All fours. She rolls a 9 on initiative.

Roy gets a +8 on initiative due to his virility bonus and his Shepherd bonus (only for the dead). He rolls low, but 11 is enough to go first.

He lights up a cigarette and blows corpseroot at her to push her away. Since this has to do with his lungs, and he's virile, he's able to take a harder drag than normal. He gets a +16 on his attack from +4 virility, +4 Shepherd and +2 from Maureen's notes. She defends with an 11. She loses. The spirit is driven out of the woman. Obviously insane. Babbling about a horse. Roy is having none of it. Normally I would call for a vote on this, but the evidence is clear and it gives people an understanding of the penal code. I'm taking this from my state's penal code for sentencing laws (South Carolina).

All told, Aunt Mable gets sixty years and one month in the Fiery Lake. It's a harsh sentence, but she stole her sister's child and killed her own sister who was that child's mother in the process.

Soooo...

Delfina saw all of that. Roy judged a spirit, saved a woman, helped heal her and all in front of Delfina who is going to tell everyone. Delfina is a normal person. She has +2 to her rolls due to the harshness of the environment, but that's it. Roy on the other hand is intelligent, brave, and even past the smell of those corpseroot cigarettes, for some reason, he still smells GOOD. He gets a +8 bonus from the the virility and the Shepherd bonus due to all he's done today. Let's roll.

Roy gets an 16. Deflina gets a 12.

Delfina is smitten. Roy has gone beyond smelling good. Whoops.

Ice Phisherman fucked around with this message at Apr 30, 2018 around 09:26

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9We2XsVZfc

Bear Enthusiast posted:

Roy is able to wave to them, does that mean more complex information can be transmitted from the Fields? Teach someone semaphore before they die and then tell them to be on the lookout, send back some hot details about the afterlife.

This is mostly a joke, but in actuality I'm curious if every Shepherd sees that clearly and if communication is possible.

This is something I may think about. I'm guessing that some research would be done by the guild. People would probably be really curious about the afterlife and what it's like.

Deadmeat5150 posted:

Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou

I was in public when I read both of those! Big strapping trucker openly weeping over his phone because when Im this tired my emotions are raw.

Delphina for BFF

Aww.

No shame in feeling your feelings my man. I need to put a warning label on this though. "May cause outbreaks of feelings".

Ice Phisherman fucked around with this message at Apr 30, 2018 around 01:24

JesterOfAmerica
Sep 11, 2015


1. Take the woman to Esfuerzo
2. 50 years

jagadaishio
Jun 25, 2013

I don't care if it's ethical; I want a Mammoth Steak.


I say give her the full 30 for kinslaying, the full 30 for kidnapping, the full 5 for manslaughter... And waive the possession and attack of a Shepherd on grounds of insanity. That's 65 years and one month. Her crimes were fairly heinous examples of the crimes, after all.

And take her back to the homestead. If she needs bed rest, then surely her own bed with her husband to care for her is the best bet. And besides which, she was possessed, so it's best to make sure that her husband didn't get injured by the ghost.

mcclay
Jul 8, 2013

Oh dear oh gosh oh darn


Soiled Meat

1. Back to the Homestead
2. 65 years

Green Intern
Dec 29, 2008

Secret Art: Toxic Crotch Whirlwind!

jagadaishio posted:

I say give her the full 30 for kinslaying, the full 30 for kidnapping, the full 5 for manslaughter... And waive the possession and attack of a Shepherd on grounds of insanity. That's 65 years and one month. Her crimes were fairly heinous examples of the crimes, after all.

And take her back to the homestead. If she needs bed rest, then surely her own bed with her husband to care for her is the best bet. And besides which, she was possessed, so it's best to make sure that her husband didn't get injured by the ghost.

I agree with this. I'd waive the possession and attack of a Shepherd as well because the previous Shepherd didn't do his drat job, and the spirit would have never come to this point had things gone right.

RickVoid
Oct 21, 2010


Beware of Feels.

Which is apparently a warning that Roy needs to be wearing on a sign around his neck right now. We clearly made the right choice with the Horse Mother's "Blessing", Roy's a stone cold badass right now. Assuming we can avoid pissing off too many dudes tomorrow (ahahahahahahaha) this should be fantastic for his reputation around here.

About Delfina... I don't suppose Shepherd Death Magic has prophylactic spell capabilities? Being a Shepherd is generally good enough at preventing those sorts of situations? Um, right... poo poo.

All I'm saying is it would be bad to roll back into town 9 months from now and be met with pitchforks and torches.

65 years and one month sounds good, as the others have said.

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

RickVoid posted:

Beware of Feels.

Which is apparently a warning that Roy needs to be wearing on a sign around his neck right now. We clearly made the right choice with the Horse Mother's "Blessing", Roy's a stone cold badass right now. Assuming we can avoid pissing off too many dudes tomorrow (ahahahahahahaha) this should be fantastic for his reputation around here.

About Delfina... I don't suppose Shepherd Death Magic has prophylactic spell capabilities? Being a Shepherd is generally good enough at preventing those sorts of situations? Um, right... poo poo.

All I'm saying is it would be bad to roll back into town 9 months from now and be met with pitchforks and torches.

Roy is still in control of his feelings by and large. What I think is interesting here is parsing out if this is who Roy is on the job normally with some extra virility on top or if he'd have done this any differently at all. We don't know.

As for anything beyond that, he's still an untouchable and is aware of that. Painfully so. Everyone else? Less so. For a while, at least for the women, he's going to be forbidden fruit. Delfina is going to be super into him too, but even she knows not to touch him. Half of the draw of forbidden fruit is the taboo itself for some people.

And actually, he is supposed to roll back into town about every month to month and a half. He's going to be doing rotations around One Tree County and all of its villages for the long term. Remember that the dead go crazy in about a month if left alone. Offerings of wood, water and good feelings can keep the dead going for a while longer if he's late, but that was a plague house. No one was going near it.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


jagadaishio posted:

I say give her the full 30 for kinslaying, the full 30 for kidnapping, the full 5 for manslaughter... And waive the possession and attack of a Shepherd on grounds of insanity. That's 65 years and one month. Her crimes were fairly heinous examples of the crimes, after all.

And take her back to the homestead. If she needs bed rest, then surely her own bed with her husband to care for her is the best bet. And besides which, she was possessed, so it's best to make sure that her husband didn't get injured by the ghost.

I was originally on board for full sentencing but you won me over. I second (third?) all this

Toughy
Nov 29, 2004

KAVODEL! KAVODEL!


The sixty years and 1 month sentence is fine.

IP logistically which destination would be faster?

HiHo ChiRho
Oct 23, 2010

Then you remember. You have a message to send.

Something everyone must know.

You have the power. You have the means.

Let it be known.




plan jag

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Toughy posted:

The sixty years and 1 month sentence is fine.

IP logistically which destination would be faster?

Getting her back to Esfuerzo would be faster even though it's further. The terrain isn't rough, but Roy would have to walk through the tall grass as the woman would have to be laid on top of the horse. It would be slow going. On the path he could walk faster and be back in about two hours, but she'd be away from her home. The spirit was also violent. I didn't mention it, but she doesn't have any blood on her hands or in her mouth. However, she still could've injured or killed someone at her homestead, though the signs are unlikely because I would have otherwise pulled your attention towards those signifiers.

Most likely she wandered away from the possessed person's home towards the hungry spirit's home. If she'd made it (I was going to roll) she was going to catch cholera when she went into the plague house if Roy decided to tend to the injured first.

Toughy
Nov 29, 2004

KAVODEL! KAVODEL!


So as a doctor does she need anything from town to make a recovery or does she only need rest now??

Also would her husband be out with the other men on the meat harvest hunt or would one of us have to stay with her?

Ice Phisherman
Apr 12, 2007

We'll always have our memories won't we? Those special memories that Iíll always treasure. You, writhing from the jellyfish sting, me, urinating on the wound.

Toughy posted:

So as a doctor does she need anything from town to make a recovery or does she only need rest now??

Also would her husband be out with the other men on the meat harvest hunt or would one of us have to stay with her?

As for doctoring, he'd need to diagnose her. To do it properly would take time and she'd need to be awake so she can answer questions. Right now she seems exhausted, dehydrated and sun poisoned on top of being unconscious. So he'll treat her as he can and take her to wherever the thread wants her to go after that.

Her husband is not Horse Clan. Sorry, I tried to make this more clear in the narrative. So he would probably stay at home and farm. Or at least be closer to home. Technically she'd fall into Iron Hill's sphere of influence despite the distance as she and her husband are some of the farmers that help keep Iron Hill fed.

Deadmeat5150
Nov 21, 2005

OLD MAN YELLS AT CLAN


1: Take her Esfuerzo
2: 65 years solid


She buried the body of the girl. Despite everything, she showed some care and remorse at her death.

The Council of Assholes might get a little irritated if Roy starts leaving little Roys all over the place. I'm going to guess that the Shepard trait breeds true, and any child of a Shepard will be a Shepard.

Groetgaffel
Oct 30, 2011

Groetgaffel smacked the living shit out of himself doing 297 points of damage.

Nap Ghost

Reduced sentence for possession and attacking a shepherd, but don't waive them entirely. Let's give her a nice even 70 years.

Take her to Esfuerzo. For one if we need additional supplies to treat her Esfuerzo is a better place to be than an isolated homestead.
For two, it means Roy will be seen taking his healing duties seriously, and since the Temp Shepherd was either incompetent or a lazy poo poo, it'll be good to show that we're better as early as possible.
Additionally because I love looove trouble, lash the unconscious woman to one horse so she can't fall off, and have Roy and Delfina share the other horse.

Reasoning: we want to get aid to the formerly possessed woman as soon as possible.
And I believe that Delfina is just a bit too smitten right now to let brave and heroic Roy walk after all his efforts.

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malbogio
Jan 19, 2015


1) Take her to the homestead. We need to check on her family and at least she has a bed and people to help nurse her there. She doesnít know anyone in town and weíve seen no indication that theyíre prepared to take care of her; the closest thing they have to a doctor is a midwife who is currently occupied. If we take her to town then her family might exhaust themselves searching for her or get lost in the badlands instead of being able to help us.

2) 10 years. Remember we have very little information about how involved Aunt Mable was in the kidnapping and manslaughter and unfortunately we canít ask her about it. We donít know if Mable or Peter came up with the kidnapping plan. We donít know if Mable or Peter implemented it. We donít know if Mable or Peter killed the mother. For all we know Peter was the driving force behind it all and Mable was just trying to survive, make the best of a bad situation, and take care of her only surviving relative. Given the scarce notes and unreliable accounts we have right now there is a version of this story in which the worst things Mable did were to draw the attention of a violent man, annoy that man by crying too much after a miscarriage, and not killing that man in his sleep to avenge her sister. Then again do we even know how Peter died? Itís not like she would have confessed a murder to Maureen.

If weíre going for such a lengthy sentence in the future Iíd prefer to have more than a vague secondhand account from a habitual liar and passing comments from a half-mad ghost to go by.

malbogio fucked around with this message at Apr 30, 2018 around 09:58

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