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Bluebooking: After Northern Aggression

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Bob Dole

Joined: 07 Aug 2007
Posts: 913
Location: Akron, OH

PostPosted: Thu, 07 Jul 2016 21:04:31 0    Post subject: Bluebooking: After Northern Aggression Reply with quote

Not that there was much 'scrip to be found on all those poor bastards, but Candee reckoned it was just enough to get her some of those creature comforts she'd been aching for since before they set out north to the mining camps. Mountain streams are all well and good, she thought to herself, but anybody selling the idea of spas and resorts... It'll never catch on! It had been at least a fortnight since she had herself a good, hot, steamy bath, and she could barely contain her enthusiasm tearing off her Dukes and racing toward the water closet of the hotel room stark naked, save her gun belt that barely clinged to the curve of her hips...

...hips that the soda jerk at the general store had barely been able to keep his eyes off of as Candee strode to the counter with arms overflowing with a bottle of cheap perfume, faux-french soaps, a fifth of whiskey, vinegar, tea, honey, gun oil, and beeswax candles. All the makings for a night to remember, she remarked as she raced past the full-size looking glass, catching sight of the deep bruises and hand marks as her mood quickly grew sullen, or a night to make a person forget- The cascade of all the assortment of items in her arms would have been comical if not for the fact Candee barely had a second to spare before she emptied this morning's greasy eggs and mystery bacon that she hastily consumed before the massacre into the spittoon before she would have needed to add a mop to her hand receipt. Feeling prying eyes on the small of her back, she rolled off of her side and sat up on a weight bearing timber. 'Bag it, now,' she said, clutching the boy's inseam mercilessly in her gloved hand, 'or the next time I catch you taking in the scenery, I'll take you out, and I don't mean for dinner!'

A squeaky diminuative 'yess'm' and a fistful of crumpled bills later and she was on her way back to the hotel passing by the gun shop, already missing the weight of her Volyer slung across her back. Maybe it's about time I looked into gettin' me one of them breach-loadin', double-barrel street howitzers... Suddenly aware of herself and her reflection staring back at her through the glass, she took a long gulp of that cheap whiskey, swishing it around a little bit before spitting it out in the alley beside the shop, feeling the welcome burn on her tongue. She quickened her pace and started sipping her whiskey in earnest, caring not what the townies thought of her as she shouldered her way through the hotel's heavy doors and up the grand staircase to her awaiting room.


She figured she must have dozed-off for 45 minutes or an hour. She remembered marveling at the miracles of modern steam technology as the tub was filling up, flooding the room with the aroma of the cheap perfume as she poured the contents of the tiny vial into the steaming water. She remembered thinking this must be what heaven feels like as her back slid down the enameled iron and her throbbing shoulder sunk into the water. Even as she came-to into a lukewarm basin, she smiled contently as she used her toes to bring a trickle of steaming-hot water into the tub to refresh the tepid pool she caccooned herself in for most of the early afternoon. "Like the metamorphosis of a pretty-little butterfly," she mused to herself with a soothing smile as the scent of the beeswax candle filled her nose.

"I really need to stop thinkin'-thinking!- in such vulgar English," she said, catching herself, "speech patterns like these backwater yokels is probably what doomed the Roman Empire... Of course, one could argue Miss Candice Graham died on that damned gas-lamp illuminated train... Well, that, and the accent is kind-of beginning to grow on me," she blushed, continuing her monologue. "I'll have to write Mom and Dad, it's been a couple of weeks... Assuming mail's even getting back through the Breach at all..."

She chuckled quietly to herself, pondering what her daddy's going to think when he finds-out his little girl followed in his footsteps and became a denizen of the battlefield instead of the scholarly angel he dreamed for her future. Yeah, she picked-up the odd book here and there which helped remind her that it was, in fact, as much a part of her as her arm; which, invariably always tended to drift down to her holster, reminding her what was also as much a part of her as that very same arm. Again, she noticed her hand unconsciously drifting down to the floor, when her fingertips landed on the grip of Miriah's Peacebringer. Unholstering it, Candee couldn't help but enjoy the irony of the situation, her father being a sanctioned magic-user during the Blackpowder Wars doing his level best to keep his little girl in the classroom and far away from the horrors of the battlefield. I'll break it to them gently... One day, she mused to herself, examining in detail the abuse/neglect that crude miner inflicted on such a marvelous piece of military craftsmanship/engineering, feeling the weight of the weapon and the walnut of it's handle settle into her palm. This is going to take a day in and of itself just to bring it back up to specs...

Sliding the weapon back into the holster and feeling the hilt of Clara's Katanas on her fingertips as she brought her hand back into the warm tub brought to Candee's mind her lament for loosing her prized sword as well; all of the hours she spent cleaning and honing its edge in the Rhetticus' forges with his best craftsmen after Lord knows how many years stuck in the chest of a mindless zombie... Sighing gently, lamenting the old man's loss, Candee slowly and methodically began the process of undoing what the filthy miners had done, starting with her golden locks under the cascade of the showerhead, grabbing the chain attached to the plug with her toes. At least, she thought, soothing and consoling herself from the thoughts of all those grubby, unwashed hands, I was out cold... Thank heavens for small mercies... "You're alive, Candee-girl," she spoke quietly to herself, "they got what they had commin' to 'em. You bask in a garden of earthly delights, and they burn in a very special hell for what they did to you; it'll have to be revenge-enough. Besides, it's not like you didn't take enough of 'em out yourself before the cavalry showed-up," she concluded with a nod and a smile as she ran her washcloth down the soft flesh of her neck under a decadent torrent of warmth.

It was early evening when she had finished her steak, chuckling to herself fondly after scaring the crap out of the boy they sent from room service to deliver Candee's dinner, answering the door wearing a smile (and precious little else) and sending him back downstairs to post her letter to her folks with a face redder than a beet. Sliding her plate aside on the table, it was time to get her hands dirty once again as she set to work on cleaning the Peacebringer. "At least Clara knew how to keep her swords clean," Candee remarked, "but don't you worry your pretty-little head: We'll get you up to snuff so you can get back to striking the fear of God back into the badguys... Which reminds me; I need to find another Derringer... Stupid miners..."

Her tools, at least, helped make quick work of many of the dings and scratches on the weapon and brought the action back to a state of smooth operation. "You got to admit," she smirked, "for being such an archaic bureaucracy, they do know at least how to build a weapon that'll survive just about anything this world can throw at it..." Securing the case and brandishing it with a hefty spin of the drum, Candee paused to feel the weight of the weapon in her hand before loading it and placing it under her pillow before turning her attention to redressing her gunbelt for two swords and a single pistol. That detail being satisfied, she began brewing herself a cup of tea for the evening as she tossed her filthy old pair of bluejeans into the fire before unpacking her back-up pair and laying them next to her polished boots. "I'll be glad to get back to the hideout and at least what part of my wardrobe I could salvage... The things I do to look pretty," she said with a sigh as she ran the damp cloth along her Dukes' corset and elbow-length gloves, quietly thanking the good Lord for their protection and beautiful craftsmanship.

After a double-check of the embedded pockets for her soulstones, Candee remembered the secret pocket she hid the Guild lieutenant's badge in and considered wearing it openly on her belt, next to the Peacebringer. Maybe, she thought to herself, I really ought to talk with the others tomorrow morning about our opportunities for regular-paid!-employment... Maybe there's a chance working inside the Guild in lieu of against it is the best avenue for change... At least, on this side of the Breach...

Candee's thoughts trailed-off as the kettle began to whistle, signalling her day had come to an end as she began to steep her tea. Meanwhile, she tidied-up her tools and the room in general before she added a couple of spoonfuls of honey to her hot beverage. She began blowing out the candles in her room as she made her way from washing her hands one last time in the water closet, placed the "Do not disturb" sign on the door, and barred it with the heavy timber. "Nobody's going to ruin this for me," she whispered to herself as she slid gracefully beneath the sheets, "Tomorrow, we head back to the hideout and me and Matty are going to fire-up that old forge and give you some proper maint'nence..." she whispered to her new acquisition as her voice began to trail off.

She was out like a light barely a moment after her head hit the pillow.
That which does not kill me ...isn't trying hard enough!
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Bob Dole

Joined: 07 Aug 2007
Posts: 913
Location: Akron, OH

PostPosted: Thu, 21 Dec 2017 19:07:24 0    Post subject: Reply with quote

She was right.

And that was the problem.

The dream started innocently enough: Candy stepped off of the train into the station filled with people that were getting on the same train, stopping to admire the ivy growing on the stone walls. She was so exhausted; why she didn't know, but she could barely walk as she crawled her way onto the bench to sit down and enjoy the light breeze and the overcast sky. Pulling herself onto the rail bench, the station was deserted, the train was half-way down the track, and she was alone. Why am I alone? As she pondered, a sense of dread filled her as the train stop decayed around her in an overgrown forest, and all she knew was that she had to get away from the station before she was late, crawling desperately away from the concrete pad of the station onto the animal path that led into the forest... Trying to crawl... As the wind picked-up... Crawling... Painfully slow... Deeper into the darkened forest...

"You're right on time, my dear," said the hobbled old lady, extending a withered hand to help Candy to her feet. Candy stood up, amazed that she didn't see the old woman standing in the path before her a second ago, carrying a lantern of all things!

Candy was dumbfounded, "I... Don't remember... Was I supposed to meet...?"

"Only the most desperate and the most brave seek me all the way out here to divine what Fate has in store for them," she started as her voice trailed off, moving faster than somebody her age should. A few quick paces and Candy was able to keep up, feeling the crisp air on her naked shoulders, the sod of the trail beneath her feet, the smell of the damp earth, and the crickets chirping. "Few of them make it as far as the Bayou. Even fewer make it as far as this trail. But nobody makes it to my doorstep without my invitation; do not fear, my child, you are invited..." Suddenly aware of herself, Candy opened her mouth to ask, but the old lady extended her lantern arm towards her with a soft, purple robe bearing the faintest hint of lilac draped over top. "We're alone-enough out here, not a soul for miles in any direction, but if it makes you feel better, help yourself."

Wrapping the robe around her shoulders, Candy seized the initiative asking, "how is it that you know what I'm going to say and when I say it, Ma'am?"

"I appreciate your manners, little one," smiled the old lady, who suddenly paused beneath a massive tangle of knotwood trees, "it's so rare these days that anybody makes the time for it. Please, call me Zoraida; that should tell you about all you need to know..." Candy's eyes widened in the dim lantern light as she drew-in a breath, letting her jaw drop in surprise as the old lady's hands gently wrapped around hers. "Forgive me for calling on you in the middle of the night," she started again, "but the best I can offer you is a cup of tea before we get started. Won't you come in?" Motioning towards a door that seemed to materialize from the knotwoods themselves, a cabin on stilts came to life, glowing its warm ambiance from the windows into the surrounding dark of the forest as Candy stood amazed at the sight before her.

"Thank-you, Zoraida," in a rather sheepish tone was about the best that Candy could muster from her lips, amazed at the extra-dimensional space that seemed to unfold within the tiny cabin in the woods as she entered. A moment later, Zoraida reappeared with a small, blackened copper kettle full of hot water set upon a small serving tray with two mismatched tea cups and saucers, a small jar of honey, and two teaspoons (similarly mismatched). In the light, Candy had a moment to appreciate her host as she placed the tray on the coffee table between the couch and the large, comfy chair, peppered with patches and threadbare cushions. Zoraida was so old that her back was almost impossibly hunched and she was garbed in a plain brown robe that almost matched her chair with a simple rope belt with dolls tied-off at almost regular intervals. Some of the dolls seemed to resemble the people Candy knew, others, were no less familiar but she couldn't quite place how she knew who they depicted. Making a polite effort not to stare, Candy accepted the teacup from Zoraida as she sat down on the couch next to a doll that eerily looked like her! One small grace Candy was thankful for was the fact that the old lady neither stank of urine, nor dowsed herself with insane amounts of perfume. Even the cabin around them, as venerable as it appeared, did not have the mildew smell of a shack out in the woods, but a dwelling that had been lived in and well taken care-of. It was almost... Impossible, if Candy had to pick a word to describe it.

"I haven't had Camomile tea since the night before I came here," remarked Candy, pleasantly surprised by the sudden familiar aroma and taste on her tongue.

"Your mother has excellent taste, my dear," started Zoraida, "I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed it until I saw you in my crystal ball," as Zoraida let out a playful hint of a smile.

Candy giggled politely, "I do not doubt you, Zoraida; your reputation precedes you.

"Oh, somebody has finally had the guts to speak of me openly," she mused.

"I mean, only in whispers," said Candy after a nervous sip of tea, "I've heard that even the Guild wouldn't dare cross you on a bright, sunny day without a cloud in the sky, and here I sit naked in the darkest forest without so much as a hair pin, and you have been a most gracious hostess to me..."

Zoraida chuckled, "Do not fear, Candice-may I call you Candice?"

"Oh, please, whatever is comfortable."

"Good, it's such a pretty name," smiled Zoraida as she finished her tea, "Candice, the heroine of Innocence, the Angel of Ridley... Your reputation precedes you as well, my dear, which is why I invited you; I had to see for myself," as she slid a Tarot deck across the coffee table, "You know what this is, dear."

"I do," said Candy, setting her cup and saucer down lightly to one side, "I can't say that I've ever put much stock into such things, Earthside. It's not to say they're inherently bad, or will tell me everything that I've ever dreamed of knowing, but, I've always thought of them as a curiosity best left in somebody else's hands and nothing upon which to base any significant long-term plans or investments... Something that was fun to do when nothing significant was at stake, like reading the horoscope in the Saturday paper on Sunday morning just to see if anything came true," she paused, reflectively. "But in your hands, I shudder to think about what you're going to tell me, which is why I've never sought you out before."

"Do you fear Fate, my dear?"

"No, but with all due respect, I believe that my Destiny lies in my own hands because I choose how I choose to deal with the Life and Circumstances that I encounter."

"You're right, Candice," smiled Zoraida. "It's a common belief that Fate is like a cobblestone street; it has a certain beginning, length, direction, and ending. It's actually more like a street map; you start where you are, and end where you want to go, but in between," she paused, "you can choose which direction to go in and how long to walk that route before deciding to stay on it or pick a new one. In short, it's the difference between knowing the path, and walking the path."

Candice smiled, and picked-up the deck, shuffling carefully. "Seven shuffles?"


"Cut once?"

"Cut once."

After a moment, and an even cut from the center of the deck, Candice placed the bottom half on top and slid stack of cards over to Zoraida. "Before we begin, what do I owe you?"

Zoraida smiled in kind, "Very thoughtful of you to ask before we began the reading, that you would pay me regardless that I bear you a good or an ill omen. I invited you, my sweet child; this one's on the house." Zoraida flipped the top card, the King of Tomes, and placed it in the center of the table. "Your station card tells me what we already know, you come from a family of Archanists, who taught you a little bit about Sorcery; he is upside down, not exactly a good sign as it is the last part of your Fate, but in this case, it suggests a Sorcery not of lightning and fireballs, but intertwined with the craft of destruction..."

"My father was a healer in the Black Powder Wars."

"Hmm," continued Zoraida, "your Western card, the Three of Rams, shows me your body; rams generally denote strength, but the smaller numbers imply flexibility and quickness, much unlike the way you stand before me." Zoraida flipped again, "another powerful card; your Northern card is the Queen of Crows. In your youth, you were tomboy-ish, and played rough; this has served you well into your adulthood, working in concert with your strengths and weaknesses in your Northern card... You've always had the boys' attention, haven't you, Candice?" Candy blushed as Zoraida continued, "Somehow, I get a feeling about your Eastern card, which tells me about your mind, that it is strong, but delicate like the shell of an egg," as Zoraida looked deep into Candy's eyes and flipped the next card. "The Nine of Rams, how curious," pondered the old lady, "I was expecting something a little more powerful, but you have more than made up for it; your confidence and your wits; I see now how it foreshadows your Station Destiny. There was a boy who did you wrong, but you grew stronger from it, with help from good friends, rather than let it defeat you."

"You are good..."

"Your Southern card," Zoraida, "the Jack of Masks, says everything about the woman who sits before me: You haven't studied much, but what you learned, you have learned solid; you can sort through the things that cloud your perception easily enough to get to the heart of the matter because you have taught yourself how to in your later-life."

"How does it read?"

"If you know the dimming of the lanterns... your shame will be as beaten as the hooves... as wonders surround your waking echoes. Hence, the dried lands are watered with the blood of sinners... and she will kiss the hanged man's lips."

Candice took a moment to mull the possibilities in her mind, allowing the mystery of it all sink in, just as the ancient grandfather clock in Zoraida's living room began to chime an impossible hour.

"Curses," Zoraida whispered under her breath, "it's time to go, child."

"So soon? But we," started Candy, gently embracing Zoraida's delicate frame.

"-I know," said Zoraida with a gentle smile, cutting her off, "but there's one more thing-"


A long moment after the Iron Ram entered the Breach, Candice Graham opened her eyes wide open in horror and rose as if from a deep sleep in her seat taking in a deep breath.


The Breach reopens at JAC Games; February, 2018.
That which does not kill me ...isn't trying hard enough!
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