The Ashlanders - Chapter 6: The Blind Man's Last Gambit (Closed, Started)

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"Good... mornin, I think. What brings you here? 'Sides the cash." A man with a strange accent asked Viola as they walked along the corridor towards Lord Basilio's office.

"Who me? I guess aside from the payout, perhaps its the feeling one gets from doing a good deed of reuniting two people who are to be betrothed to one another. Or perhaps it is to satisfy my curiosity, to see if the Maiden and its crew are as capable as rumours suggest they are." Viola responded with a nonchalant tone in her voice. It appeared Raphael had overheard this conversation and spoke without even turning his head.

"Cease all side conversations before we enter Lord Basilio's chamber. He has little tolerance for such foolishness." Viola then turned to the man who was talking to her, and spoke in a low whisper.

"Best we keep quiet for the time being, wouldn't want to make a negative first impression."

The Gentleman laughed aloud.

"Oh, I have my contacts for all things Lilith, as long as you don't mind dealing in tax free merchandise." he teased. "Depending on where we're going, I might be able to move you up in the world of tobacco too."

The Gentleman lit his pipe, and savoured a long, sweet puff, before returning to the conversation.

"So, just out of curiosity. What are these demons that torment Aesop so?"

"Depending on where we're going, I might be able to move you up in the world of tobacco too."

"I look forward to it." She replied, rolling her eyes.

"So, just out of curiosity. What are these demons that torment Aesop so?"

Lilith smiled. "You ask me like you don't already know." She took a sip of tea. "Anyway, even if you didn't know, which I know you do, it's not my place to discuss such things. Why don't you ask him yourself, or did you already burn that bridge, since I know how you oh so love to torment people."

"Oh, yeah, um.... C-can I get y'all something ta' eat're drink?"

"I will have water as well. And perchance some bread for breakfast." Josephine had to make sure Elizabeth was keeping her strength up. With the bullet removed and her wound treated, it was one less thing for her to worry about. But then the captain ran her mouth off regarding Lord Basilio.

"He ain't payn' shit. Don' go'n flatter yerself, honey. Basilio 'n me, we go way back. The moment he hears I'm involved he'll ferget all 'bout you and go on'a crusade fer my head."

The Tigereye family have been allied to the Basilios for many years now. They always had each other's backs. When her brother Frederick was killed, they were the first to send flowers and many made it to the funeral. She never saw anything monstrous about them.

The captain was lying. She was sure of it! And she sure as hell wasn't going to let Elizabeth starve herself over it.

"I will have water as well. And perchance some bread for breakfast."

Sprout gave a quick nod and left the room in search of water and bread. As he ventured down the hall he wondered what kind of food they'd hauled in with the rest of the cargo. Maybe he'd be able to whip up something a bit more... significant than mere bread.

A sandwich could be made, at the very least. Wearing a determined smile, he slammed his right fist down into his open palm as to seal the deal. Sandwiches would be made!

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Elizabeth could see concern painted on Josephine's face as the boy left them. Sitting up in bed, she rubbed her eyes as to banish her drowsiness, "Thank you, Milady." She said as Josephine retreated from the door.

There were many things fighting for attention in her mind, but one specific oddity pervaded logic more than any other. It was something she just couldn't quite understand, "What do you think the Captain meant by what she said last night?" She paused for a moment to recall the day's events. The look on Pixie's face is what stuck to her the most. "W-why... why did she seem so concerned for me?"

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Dio was still sifting through documents when Raphael led the rabble into his lavished, and distinctly over-sized office. He didn't so much as acknowledge their presence until Raphael spoke, "Milord, the hunters---"

Without even looking up he interrupted his servant, "Very good, Raphael. You may leave us." The butler bowed in compliance and left the room. After another thirty seconds of silently sifting through documents he finally looked up to see the hunters before him. None of them spoke a word as he scanned them from behind his desk. When he finally stood he could hear at least one or two surprised gasps. Despite wearing formal noble attire it was impossible not to notice his massive, athletic form, not to mention his staggering height. He was an even 6 in-a-half feet tall.

"Welcome to my home, hunters." Dio said with a sprinkle of cynicism in his voice. It would go unnoticed to most in the room. He came around the front of his desk and stood before them. They had not been unarmed, as per his order. This came as a surprise to most of the hunters, but those who did their research knew why. He was a man with nothing to fear. If what they say was true, Dio was one of the most dangerous men in the ashlands, in both the literal and abstract sense.

He sized up the men and women in front of him, "I gathered you all here today for an assignment. Meredith "Pixie" Monroe captured my betrothed yesterday and intends to ransom her. This will simply not do. I do not make deals with scum such as her." He eyeballed a few of the hunters as he spoke, meeting their gaze until they looked away. "The Iron Maiden's time is up. I'm willing to offer a hefty sum--one that will set you up for life--to the one that brings me Pixie's head."

"The Iron Maiden's time is up. I'm willing to offer a hefty sum--one that will set you up for life--to the one that brings me Pixie's head."

That choice of statement gave Metal some insight into the man. Clearing his throat, he tugged back the curved leather brim of his hat. "What about managing returning the bride-to-be? What's that get us?"

"True enough, the basics are obvious." The Gentleman conceded. "You can smell that foul concoction Ruffles makes over half of the ship. Those are merely the bare bones of the matter though, and you never know what details might be important later. I want to know how he started, and how he ended up here. I promise, hand on heart, as a return for the promise you made me back on the train, that I will not use the information I get from you for any malicious purposes."

He gave Lilith his most disarming smile.

"Where are they comin' from?"

"I don't know I can't even peek my head up."

"Who cares bullets are flying everywhere just shoot where the bangs come from-"

"KEATS! NO!"

"DON'T SHE'S DEAD DON'T G-"

"OH FUCK WHAT'S HE DOING?"

"ARIN!"

"Leave him he's dead, they both are."

"FUCK FUCK FUCKING GOD DAMMIT!"

"Salih run, go get the-"

"EMILIO!"
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Aesop woke up with his face buried in his pillow. He was sleeping on a funny angle and his neck was aching. He turned his neck in a way to increase the pain as he pulled on his own hair. "C'mon, not today. Take it easy today Aesop, job well done yesterday, all in all." He continued to cause himself slight pain until his dreams had been driven out of his mind. Then came the smile. The forced smile which he slowly twisted into a genuine one. Grabbing the hair bobbles he fashioned his locks into a ponytail once again and began his morning ritual of working out.

"Captain says we have the day off, but she's got an important announcement to make after supper. Don't miss it."

"Thanks Cranston." He continued his workout for a while before realising that he didn't have the nourishment to continue. Panting he sat against the wall and wiped the sweat off his brow with his forehead. "Probably best to get a wash." He went to his small basin and himself a clean up, laughing at the razer that for some reason sat at his sink. He held it up and said, "Pfff, I'm never gonna use you." He dropped it in the sink and stroked his beard before putting back on his signature gear and exiting the room. He set off down to the kitchen high fiving a couple other maidens on the way down. Man did repressing memories make him feel good in the morning, or maybe afternoon by now. He had spent a lot of time in his room. Sadly his mood went right back down as he turned a corner and saw the... fuck face Ruffles named him? Yeah that'll do, fuck face; when he saw the fuck face having tea with Lillith. As much as Aesop wanted to have fun and tease Lillith about her hangover he couldn't do it with fuck face there he just couldn't. He could ruin Aesop. It was a good idea to keep his distance. Maybe he could get some food somewhere else-ooh the cargo might have some good food. Yeah the nobles would definitely have some spices or some fancy pants bread made in the finest plantations of... this thought process is going nowhere; TO THE CARGO HOLD!

The man's smile caught Lilith a little off guard. It wasn't the same smile he used in the past.

Still an act, I reckon. She pulled up the vest strap that managed to slip from her shoulder. No, she wouldn't tell him. She could trust the man about as far as she could throw him. She took a long drag of her cigarette, propping the side of her head on her fist, the opposite vest strap slipping down. Fucking vest

"Tell me, have you ever heard the story about The Boy Who Cried Fire?"

"Tell me, have you ever heard the story about The Boy Who Cried Fire?"

"That, or some similar variation." The Gentleman replied. "I know the story well, and I seem to remember the boy in question had his moments of sincerity."

The Gentleman still smiled at her, as he looked over his cup.

'I will find out, eventually. It will be easier for all concerned if it comes from you.'

"I know the story well, and I seem to remember the boy in question had his moments of sincerity."

"Yes, well, he was just a boy, kinda like the one you held at gunpoint yesterday" She smirked, an eyebrow raised. "You no doubt already know about the alcoholism, I'm sure that took you all of three seconds to figure out. Anything more than that, and I honestly don't know." He pulled the strap of her vest up with her free hand, only for it to immediately fall back down again. Fuck you gravity, you're making it really difficult for me to be taken seriously here.

"And even if I did know, which I don't, and I did tell you, would you believe me?" She asked, blowing out smoke, "I don't think you would, or if you did, you would still attempt to confirm it through other means." She furrowed her brow in thought. "Which makes me wonder, with that being the case, why are we even having this conversation? What can a lowly bandit girl from the arse end of nowhere tell you what you didn't already know?"

-"I don' know if I can trust myself ta' make the right calls here."

Florian took a deep gulp from his metal mug and gently laid it down on the small table and cupped his hands in front of his mouth for a moment, breathing in deep. It was going to be one of those days was it? He listened intently as she went on and looked back into her severe stare, unblinking.

"So why are you risking everything for this girl?" He asked after a while. "Am I far off when I assume that she's more than just the usual noble arm candy?"
So either they were holding out for a larger bounty than her family could afford, or she was doing this for a moral or personal reason. With most captain one would assume the former... but this was Meredith "Pixie" Munroe. Robber of the rich and feeder of the poor and she was not most captains.

And she wouldn't be worried about trusting herself if this was strictly business. If there was anyone the captain trusted above all others in this world it was herself.

"This girl... she's something special isn't she, is she something to you, personally?" He asked, softly.

"Am I far off when I assume that she's more than just the usual noble arm candy?"

Pixie grunted amusingly as she continued to stare down into her coffee.

"This girl... she's something special isn't she, is she something to you, personally?"

Pixie slowly lifted her head and met his gaze once more. The look in her eye was no longer that of a concerned maternal figure, but rather a calculated commanding office. Florian could feel his blood freeze as she seemingly stared into his very soul, "Florian, anythin' said from here on out ain't gonna leave this room. Understand?"

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"What about managing returning the bride-to-be? What's that get us?"

Dio stopped his deliberate pacing and looked to the man who spoke out, "She is of no concern." He smiled as he gauged the group's reactions. "Do not think me a monster. I do care very much for Lady Maribel, however due to certain circumstances I need not be concerned with her well being. Assuming none of you do anything reckless I fear not for her safety."

He turned away from the group to peer out the enormous windows behind his desk, "Captain Monroe knows better than to let her come to harm."

"Everything said in this room is kept in complete confidence, you know that." Florian said flatly.

It looked like he'd hit a nerve. Clearly it was too early in the morning for both of them to get into one of these matters. Why did the captain never come to him on a more light hearted matter? Still he couldn't take it personally, half the crew that had come through his quarters on confession started getting aggressive at one point or another. The company he kept all had their fair share of deeds that weighed heavy on them, the kind they didn't talk about happily.

"Well Lilith," The Gentleman said, finishing the last dregs of his tea. "Sometimes what someone doesn't know can be just as informative as what they do."

He smiled again, with the pipe between his teeth as he lit it for a second time.

"I'll leave you in peace. It would be remiss of me not to cause any more trouble. The audience expects, and so the players must provide." he said, as he swung off his stool and left the refectory.

"Sometimes what someone doesn't know can be just as informative as what they do."

She closed her eyes for a second to let that one soak in. It is far too early, and I am far too hungover to be having this conversation.

"I'll leave you in peace. It would be remiss of me not to cause any more trouble. The audience expects, and so the players must provide."

She waved her hand lazily, as if to shoo him away. "Yeah, yeah, get outta here, if you're gonna snoop around, try not to break my record player, that shit's hard to come by."

She rubbed her temples, a portion of unattended ash breaking away from her cigarette. "That oyster didn't work..." she let her arms fall to her side as she rested her face on the counter top, enjoying its coldness on her cheek. Both straps of her vest fell loose.

"Bollocks."

"She is of no concern." Lord Dio said with a cruel smile in response to a question one of the other hunters asked. He then quietly scanned the group, looking to see what sort of reactions the other bounty hunters gave. "Do not think me a monster. I do care very much for Lady Maribel, however due to certain circumstances I need not be concerned with her well being. Assuming none of you do anything reckless I fear not for her safety." Lord Dio then turned away from the group to peer out of the large windows that were behind him.

"Captain Monroe knows better than to let her come to harm." This caused something to spark within Viola's mind.

"Hmmph, to think, this man cares more about a bandit being dealt with than his own betrothed; truly shows the devotion he has for her. If this is true, than Lady Maribel doesn't deserve him; she'd be better off with someone who'd put their beloved's safety first. *sigh* Or perhaps I am simply over thinking things, I guess time will tell." Viola thought to herself, her voice speaking with a sense of coldness and hostility, not that she'd openly display it of course.

"I take it then that the two of you have come to some sort of altercation in the past?" She then asked aloud.

Kayneth answered the posh little shit with a proud middle finger and a defiantly stuck out tongue. It didn't seem he noticed, which suited the Duelist just fine, thank you very much. The boss, client, head of the organization; whatever he was to be called, looked like he could do the job just fine on his own. Not that Kayneth knew or cared what the 'Iron Maiden' was (he remembered Aeron once throwing an attempted assassin in one once, but he figured it was just a namesake).

One of his competition decided to pipe up with something, something the rest should've asked. The safety of the bride to be. That was all but brushed away, instead focusing on the heads and collecting thereof. Reckless behavior was bad, which meant stealth and stabbing on this mission. He didn't give a rat's piss over the fate of that girl.

"I take it then that the two of you have come to some sort of altercation in the past?"

But the bleeding heart in the group did. Kayneth groaned, "I don't very much care for a history lesson. Sounds like bandits are holding a damsel in distress, who cares much for the kidnappin cap'n's motivation in all this? Just tell me where to strike, and I'll have a few heads by sundown."

"I take it then that the two of you have come to some sort of altercation in the past?"

Dio turned to face the girl and was about to dismiss her when another did his job for him.

"... Sounds like bandits are holding a damsel in distress, who cares much for the kidnappin cap'n's motivation in all this? Just tell me where to strike, and I'll have a few heads by sundown."

I like this one.

Dio smiled, "That's what I like to hear. You could learn much from him." Dio said to Viola before turning his gaze to the group as a whole. "Do not get hung up such trivial details. You are among the best hunters on the planet. The elite of the ashlands. I expect results that do your reputations justice."

He started for his desk once more, "Now, if there aren't anymore questions I have a lot of work to return to."

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Pixie let out a long drawn out sigh. She'd gone through two mugs of coffee since beginning her tale. Florian had listened intently, honing in on every fine detail, being sure to ask questions when appropriate. And with that, Florian knew the truth of the situation. Though she was still uneasy, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulder.

She glanced up at Florian from the mug in her hands, "I reckon that's 'bout all of it. Now I hope ya' understand why this whole situation is, well, completely monkey-fucked." She placed a hand on his shoulder. "I got me some other matters tha' need tendin' to, but I plan ta' talk ta' Josephine before the end'a the day. Mind keep'n Elizabeth company while I do?"

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"Bollocks."

Sprout entered the room just on time to see Lilith's cloths malfunction. Stopping dead in his tracks, he didn't even realize he'd be staring until she noticed him, "Oh! M-m-m-morn'n Lilith!"

"Oh! M-m-m-morn'n Lilith!"

Lilith didn't move, but she did try her best to smile. "Hey there kiddo, how're ya holding up?" A croak in her voice, groaning as she righted herself. She leaned back her head, tilting it slightly so she could see Sprout. "Don't ever get drunk, kid, it's not worth it." Lilith's hair was a mess, her face grimy, and she was pretty sure that oyster was coming back to avenge itself and all it's former comrades, and to top it off, she must have slept funny because her back was killing her.

"You wouldn't mind doing me a favour would you?" She chuckled, "See, I'd usually ask your old lady, but she's not around..." She tapped the back of her shoulder rather clumsily.

It had been quite the story. Some parts of it fresh and original, others were tragically common if you lived the wrong kind of like on the rock and so many people did these days. For the most part Florian had been content to listen in silence, only speaking up when a lull occurred and he needed some clarification to get the full picture. And what a wonderful picture it was.

He and the captain seemed to simply regard each other for a moment.

Has she ever told another soul this story? It didn't feel likely.

"I got me some other matters tha' need tendin' to, but I plan ta' talk ta' Josephine before the end'a the day. Mind keep'n Elizabeth company while I do?"

"Of course."

Were this any other story Florian might have tried to lighten the mood right about now. But this wasn't like any other confession he'd been given before.

"I'll make myself look the part and join them in their quarters as soon as I'm able."

He quietly ushered the captain out and set about making himself look as much like an honest priest as he could. Dressed in his usual blacks and greys and with his collar in place Florian scooped up his bible and stepped out, pausing briefly to lock the door behind him less Smiles decide to have another crack. The thought of having to defend and control himself like this on the ship was depressing. Any thoughts of payback had been squashed by this new development, Florian would have to turn the other cheek and do what was needed of him for now.

It would be the right thing to do anyway. He tried to justify it to himself but it sounded like an excuse even then.

There was time to get a quick breakfast first at least. He arrived just in time to catch Lilith and Axel in the middle of an erotic encounter. Just another day on the Iron Maiden.

"Glad to see the two of you have been brought closer by yesterday's event." Florian said, taking a nearby seat along with some toast.

"Glad to see the two of you have been brought closer by yesterday's event."

Lilith smiled weakly, "Hey, I don't care who does it, You've got big strong hands, Padre, why don't you do it?" She wiggled her shoulders, "C'mooooon, I'm dying over her." She glanced at Sprout, who seemed to be halfway between having an aneurysm and wanting to break out in dance.

"C'mooooon, I'm dying over here."

"Afraid not. I made a solemn vow denying me the temptations of women. It would take a stronger man than me to lay hands on Miss Lilith and not cast aside his principles." He shot a look of manly encouragement to Axel. The boy had faced near death far too much yesterday, he needed something to give him a shot of life.

Why when Florian had survived a fight to the death at that age he'd be climbing the walls in search of decadence. Though his father had kept him clear of the sensual decadences until he had been a few years older than Axel was now. Still the principle was the same.

"Afraid not. I made a solemn vow denying me the temptations of women. It would take a stronger man than me to lay hands on Miss Lilith and not cast aside his principles."

Lilith pouted, resting her head back on the counter. "But it huuuuuuuuuuuuurts." she complained.

She understood the situation the kid must find himself in, but really, it was about time he stopped being so intimidated by her. The lessons she taught him now would stand him in good stead for future relationships. His future wife would thank her for it.

"Sprout, over here, that's an order."

"I'll make myself look the part and join them in their quarters as soon as I'm able."

Pixie nodded with a smirk, "Thanks again, Father."

It was finally out. She had finally told someone. She'd hoped her anxiety would subside after doing so, but her fear remained. It also didn't help that she was running on no sleep. To say the previous day had been eventful would be an understatement. Any normal human would have passed out upon returning to the ship after going through what she had.

Not Pixie.

She never did sleep much to begin with.

After unlocking her door she swung it open and threw herself onto her cot. Sleep took her moments later.

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"Sprout, over here, that's an order."

After an audible, nervous gulp. Sprout nodded with renewed purpose, "Yes, ma'am!"

His hands trembling, he rested them on her shoulders and after a few moments of hesitation, began massaging them. Her skin was as smooth as a baby's bottom, "Uh, like this?"

"Uh, like this?"

Lilith closed her eyes and drooped her head forward as her muscles began to relax, "Just, like, that." She smiled. The kid was good, but she guessed he spent a lot of time massaging things. She groaned contently.

"Hey Padre, I think we've found something the kid is good at. Tell Meredith I don't need her any more, she's been replaced."

"The master will see you now," said a young girl in an absolutely perverted maid outfit. Alexandria had a look of disgust, but clearly this girl hated being in the outfit as well and the last thing Alex wanted was for the poor young girl to think Alex was judging her; so she flashed her a warm smile as she stood up from her seat and walked towards the main door.

"Thank you Denise," said the Sheriff. 'Poor girl.' She thought. She had an inkling the noble bastard was abusing her, and the second she saw Denise with a mark on her she was going to bust him. She didn't know how but she would. Fuck the consequences.

Pushing open the ridiculously oversized mahogany door, with equally ridiculous ornate designs of angels and demons and... all sorts of weird shit, including some kind of angel cherub baby thing? Every time Alex walked through this door she got the instant reminder that the head of the noble Yuteni family was, to put it bluntly, "fucking nutjob."

"What was that dear Alex?" Said the man, swivelling in a chair that only a giant man could sit in and not look like a child in daddy's chair, he turned to face Alex in-good god a fucking nightgown.

"Don't you think you should were some formal wear sir?" she said, her spite seeping into the air through her tight lips.

"Why? This is comfortable!" he bellowed, laughing and puffing on a pipe with his initials printed on it, GY, Gerald Yuteni.

"Sir you look ridiculous. Also I believe you are meant to be meeting with Du-"

"Heavens no!" he protested, interrupting her rudely, waving off her concern much to her annoyance. "It has been cancelled on account of dear Dio Basilio's betrothed being stolen from under him, well before she had a chance to get under him. Mmm yes, quite right." He puffed his pipe a few times and chuckled. Smoke filled the area around him, it would have filled the room-if it were not for the fact that the room was as big as her entire station. Fuck this decadence made her sick. The distance between them was so large they had to project their voices in order to be heard by one another, though the echo effect caused by the design of the room helped. "A devilish trap set by the dreaded Iron Maidens!"

"Iron Maidens? Huh." Replied Alex under her breath, not loud enough for him to hear but he could see her mouth move.

"What was that my dear?" he boomed.

"Nothing sir, just feel sorry for her." She knew little about Elizabeth Maribel other than a few newspaper articles and black and white runny photos that came off at your finger tips. As for the maidens, Alex contact with them once. She sussed it to their captain running background checks on what must have been a new member. She allowed the information to slip through the cracks, as this individual, in her eyes, would likely let them down just as he had let Alex down.

"Mmm, yes indeed. Why don't you come forward Alex I can barely hear you." he continued.

"I'd rather not sir, and I'd prefer you call me sheriff." said Alex with the ever so subtle venom in her tone.

Gerald laughed at her, coughing up smoke as he did so. "Oh Alex, Alex Alex Alex, dear Alex-"

"Don't call me dear sir." she shouted.

"Hmm ha ha," he chuckled, "sure, sure. Still why not come forwards Alexandra?"

"Its Alexandria. And I am fine where I stand, sir." she spoke the last word through gritted teeth.

He chuckled again. As wrong as it was a tiny piece of her brain wanted him to do something to that young girl, then she could arrest him or kill him or something even if he can get away with everything, surely some other noble could benefit from him gone so maybe she could do it. No! No that is wrong, she took it back instantly and felt guilty for her thoughts. It wouldn't be worth it to ruin that girl's life.

"Of course, Sheriff Alexandria. Pardon me its always a pleasure to have you in my company but why is it you are here?"
Finally, to business. "I wanted you to know that we arrested the gun traders a few nights ago, I tried to contact you but you were-"

"Ah! Wonderful!" He hopped up out of his seat and unfortunately for Alexandria, his gown did not cover everything. She grimaced at his boyhood, boyhood being a better word than manhood despite his age of 40 years old. "Ah you wondrous, wondrous woman." He laughed and made his way towards he to hug and kiss her.

"Not one step onto that rug, nobility or not I will kill you if you touch me." There was no sarcasm in her voice, she made sure her disgust was clear.

"Ahaha, you are a feisty one. Still, did you feel the need to tell me personally? Or did you just want to see me?"

"Your men wouldn't stop bothering me about it, I kept telling them it was already handled but they kept saying I needed to see you in person, don't pretend I came here of my own accord, I know you enjoy me coming here." 'Pervert.'

"Ah you are astute Miss North. Very astute. Care for a glass of wine?"

"No sir I'd rather not, I better be heading back to the station. Just one question why did you need to cancel your meeting because of Maribel's kidnapping? You have no connection with her?"

"Oh it has my compatriots spooked." he sighed. "No matter. I can spend the day looking out onto MY beautiful city, knowing it is under the protection of a beautiful woma-"

"Right I'm going back to the station." Not listening to hear him continue you left the room and headed all the way back down his ivory tower. The sad part about all this, is that of all the nobles she had seen visit Yuteni, his perversion was standard by now."
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The RV slowly parked up just inside a dome near a small pit stop. They had been driving the past few days to get to this dome somewhere in the Feroxi region. The young boy quickly exited the RV. "Dad dad we're here we're here!"

"Calm down boy," laughed Austin as he picked him up. "We are just making a small pit stop, once we get into the heart of the city we are sure to find a toy store okay?"

"Okay dad," the boy sighed. "Sorry."

"Ah don't worry about it, you've been cooped up for days now in this camper. Go stretch your legs, run around a bit." He smiled warmly to the boy as he threw off his breathing mask and went running around in circles in no particular direction.

Oliver crept up behind Austin and said "Eric sure does seem much better now."

Changing his tone to a more sinister one Austin said "He just needed some time. Lack of light and time frame makes one sensitive to persuasion, with young ones its much easier. One day you might even help me boy." Austin then smiled and threw an arm around Oliver who returned the gesture with a grin.
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Hannibal managed to catch a cheap carriage into one of the slums of Feroxi. It stopped before it properly got there but it was close enough for him to walk. He followed McGregor's instructions and followed the signs, or as well as he could follow them. His reading skills weren't very good but he could read some things. Thankfully McGregor spelled out his instructions as if Hannibal were an idiot and he... well...

Through a few twists and turns in roads, pasts a few prostitutes and drug addled homeless people he found McGregor's workshop. The place was just... eww. Eww seems like the only word in the english language to describe the place in a fashion that wasn't totally vulgar to read. It was contained within a small storage facility. Each storage unit looked dank and decrepid, there was smoke in the air from the various drugs being made in the various storage units. Pretty much every one was either some sort of chem lab, makeshift brother, used by homeless people for shelter and, in rare instances, used for storing legal objects.

"U 17? Or 7?" Hannibal spoke aloud to himself, trying to remember which one it was. He question was answered when he saw two people entering U 7, one a woman in a cowgirl outfit and the other a... might be a little too explicit for this rp so how about we move on, eh?

Finding U 17 he opened the shutter to see McGregor's workshop. "Okay. Yup. This is it. McGregor's private labatory and workshop." He wasn't speaking exposition he was reading a large sign Mcgregor had put up in large red letters, with Laboratory spelt without the 'r'. Hannibal didn't know there was an 'r' in laboratory either so he didn't know any better. One thing that occurred to neither of them was how would someone with an incomplete grasp of spelling be capable of assembling a bomb from bits and pieces of potential explosives. McGregor would have had a chance if all the equipment from Hannibal's bag was there. But it wasn't. It was in the same town that the vile man was still probably imprisoned.

Hannibal did realise he had absolutely no experience with anything technical and dealing with explosions was likely to get him killed. However being captured and shot by The Gundersons was probably going to be just as bad. Hannibal didn't know the plot of the explosives, he just hoped that it was for some kind of robbery rather than to kill someone, or more the just one person. The last thing he wanted to become was a murderer.

Grabbing any tools and parts he could find he began work on a bomb... which he didn't know hot to make. Oh joy.

=========================================================================================================================
Aesop walked through the halls, high fiving and fist pounding crew members on the way down, until he got to the cargo hold. He sought through various containers and boxes, finding some sweet bread and cookies along with... "That is a shit ton of wine." Aesop stared at it for a long time. Eyes full of fear as he breathed slow, barely taking in enough oxygen. He kept thinking 'Put the lid back on the container, put the lid back on the container... Come on Aesop you can do it... you can do it... Put the fucking lid on... Put. The fucking. Lid. On. You shitcake.' He was damn near licking his lips at the thought of wine. 'C'mon you had eleven months of this mother fucker don't fuck this up now don't fuck this up now. Put the lid on' "NNNNOOW!" He yelled as he planted the lid on the crate, panting as he did so. He hit himself on the side of the head a few times. "You're a god damn fucking idiot Aesop. So close to ruining everything. You wanna go back there mother fucker? You want to you fucking want to?!" He pounded the top of the crate a few times with his fist until he got splinters on his knuckles, he'd had worse but splinters are still irritating.

"Ah, dammit." He sucked his knuckles and sat atop one of the other crates. "Fucking woooAHHHHHH" He was going to say wood but the lid must have been damaged somehow as he fell ass first through the crate. Stuck in an accordion position he sat there for a moment. "Ah, ow, um... Anybody-" he began to call out before continuing, "okay no one needs to see me like this." He sighed and looked around the crate and noticed there this particular crate was filled with books. "Oooh, what's this. 'A tale of two Cities?' Never read this before."

Staying in his odd position of his knees near his face and his feet sticking out of the crate and his back arched as he sat in an incredibly awkward position, he began reading the book, not thinking of the back pain he will have later.

"Chapter one. The Period. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

"What do you think the Captain meant by what she said last night? W-why... why did she seem so concerned for me?" asked Elizabeth.

"Fret not. Shun her words." Josephine placed a reassuring hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Lord Basilio is a good man. We've held an alliance with them for many years." She quickly glanced at the golden pin that rested above her breast, remembering the family's kindness towards them since Frederick's passing.

"Be strong, Lady Maribel. Lord Basilio will n'er abandon you. I swear it."

It had taken some rummaging through his collection, siphoning through decade after decade of collected and compiled insurance, but the Gentleman had finally found what he was looking for. Slipping the device into his inside pocket, The Gentleman set out to find the rest of the Iron Maiden's new arrivals.

At the room where the two captives were being held, he listened to check that they were alone. As it would happen, they were discussing the very subject, and the opportunity for his entrance soon presented itself.

"Be strong, Lady Maribel. Lord Basilio will n'er abandon you. I swear it."

"Your faith in this noble paragon of yours is all too touching, my lady." The Gentleman announced, striding into the room. "You could almost make me believe it myself." he said, his smile glazed with sweet mockery. "Why, I half expect the true, highborn Lord Basilio is rushing to the rescue of our fair maiden as we speak, perhaps clad in gleaming steel atop a pure white stallion. Lady Maribel shall have nothing to fear."

He stopped there, before taking of his hat and giving a swooping bow to the two ladies. "I'm so sorry, where are my manners. 'The Gentleman', at your service."

"Hey Padre, I think we've found something the kid is good at. Tell Meredith I don't need her any more, she's been replaced."

"I did not sign up for this kind of strange." Florian took his leave of Axel's fantasy made real for places more sane than this. The unfortunate captives would be meeting with the captain again soon and it was not his place to tell the other crew members of her plans ahead of time. Gossip could undermine the command chain and tear a crew apart after all.

But what do I know of leading?

"Hey Padre, I think we've found something the kid is good at. Tell Meredith I don't need her any more, she's been replaced."

Sprout smiled a victorious smile. Being forced to perfect his technique by his mother had paid off it seemed (she had stiff shoulders more often than most).

"I did not sign up for this kind of strange."

Sprout had lost himself in his own thoughts before Florian's words could sink in. It seemed he had left right before things got really strange. Lilith let out another exaggerated moan and let her head hang forward. Sprout dug deeper into her shoulders, leaned in close to her neck and... took a little sniff.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Be strong, Lady Maribel. Lord Basilio will n'er abandon you. I swear it."

Elizabeth stared into Josephine's eyes and nodded with a gentle smile. Above all else, Josephine was an honest woman, of that Elizabeth was certain. Her gaze shifted to that of the door as it opened.

"Your faith in this noble paragon of yours is all too touching, my lady."

Elizabeth's eyes narrowed as she looked upon the villainous man. He could have knocked at least. His sarcasm in regards to her rescue only served to sharpen the daggers she was staring into him.

"I'm so sorry, where are my manners. 'The Gentleman', at your service."

"What is it that you want? Does the captain even know you're here?"

"Do not get hung up such trivial details. You are among the best hunters on the planet. The elite of the Ashlands. I expect results that do your reputations justice." Dio said with such a smug smile on his face as he turned towards the group. The way in which Dio spoke and acted, made Viola want to punch the noble right then and there, but she knew that would only end up bad for her. How dare this man speak to her like that. "Now, if there aren't anymore questions I have a lot of work to return to."

At this point, Viola had enough, she couldn't stand to bare another minute in this man's presence, and so, she turned and began to walk away, but not before leaving Lord Basilio with a piece of advice.

"Don't be surprised if knowing the finer details determines the outcome of this job. Good day to you all." Viola said in a polite and cordial manner, a manner well suited to a professional of her caliber. As Viola walked through the halls of the estate, she ignored the greetings she received from the serving staff, as her mind began to think up a plan; but in order to pull it off, she would need some information.

"I did not sign up for this kind of strange."

Lilith grinned, "Hey, you missed your chance, don't be acting all jealous now."

A few moments passed, before she felt a strange sensation at the nape of her neck. Eyes still closed, Lilith furrowed her brow, Did... did he just smell me?

"Hey Axel, di-", she drew a sharp breath as the kid's fingers managed to knead into a particular tender part of her shoulder, she shivered slightly. "You're doing a great job." She sighed.

Sod it, I'll let him have that one for free.

"You're doing a great job."

Ruffles heard this as he came around the corner. "Hey Sprout, I-- what the hell?" After a brief pause, he said, "the only explanation for this I can think of is that Sprout's jerking fantasies have become so vivid they're affecting reality. Anyway, I was going to say I have something to show you, but I can see you're busy touching woman flesh."

Kayneth

"Do not get hung up such trivial details. You are among the best hunters on the planet. The elite of the ashlands. I expect results that do your reputations justice."

Kayneth nodded at the compliment, which he assumed was directed at him, and watched as the prettiest mercenary left, leaving some warning or other.

"'Best hunters on the planet' mean we should ignore that? Cause I still just want to get this over with. I'll assume Pixie uses a gun, has a ship?" Kayneth asked, the only two questions that'd bother him.

======================================================================================
Smiles

He managed to get some aimless wandering in. He did nothing, and it was all he had hoped it'd be, though it left him bored when he was done. He could try visiting with Lilith again. Though chances were she was naked or doing something awkward with Sprout.

He noticed a familiar face in a hall, and waved a friendly hello to Florian. He didn't want to start a conversation too much, but it could be fun.

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