A Family Reunion

Brother Joshua stands within Wayne’s house, a feather held in his hand just looking at it.  While Wayne looks happily on like he has done a great deed passing on this wonderful gift.  Brother Jesse turns his head away with a slight smile crossing his lips.  Brother Ambrose turns to Joshua and asks him if he needs some time to sort out his little problem.  Joshua replies with a furrowed brow, looking up at Ambrose from the white feather in his hand, reminding him that he has already told Sleeping Dog that it will have to wait until another time.  Jesse turns to Ambrose and agrees with Joshua, “It would be best to leave it until after.  Otherwise we may not be able to stay in town.”  He then turns his head away again before the smile returns to his face.

“Valid point.” Ambrose agrees.  However someone else, who is also stood in the room with the three Watch Dogs, looks on confused at the reaction to the gift.  “Is there something wrong here?”  He asks them worried.  Joshua just stands there not saying another word, except for grinding his teeth together.  Jesse quickly rescues Wayne, thanking him for his help in answering the question and his hospitality.  He tells him that they had best be moving on, as they need to make progress with their investigations.  Wayne stand there looking confused as he combs his hand through his hair, apologising for what he may have done to upset them.  Jesse reassures him and bids him farewell.

The three Watch Dogs make their way back out in to the darkening day.  The light all but gone now, with the cold and snow more intense than it was when they had entered Wayne’s.  They quickly wrap their long thick coats around them, fending off the cold wind that tries to whip them about.  Standing there they decided that they had best leave any further investigations until the following morning.  The snow slowly settling upon their shoulders and heads.

The Watch Dogs make their way back over to the town’s chapel, and ask the steward Cresse if it would be okay for them to stay in the chapel for the night.  The steward happily agrees with the request, and hurriedly lays some blankets down on the cold stone floor for each Watch Dog.  They had caught him in the middle of cooking his evening meal, and offer each of them a share of his food.  A simple meal of gruel and potatoes in a broth along with some stale bread to soak up the liquid.

The meal is eaten in silence.  And the three Watch Dogs make an early night of it, wishing to make an early start to the following day refreshed.

The morning greets the Watch Dogs with a chill wind blowing around the outside of the chapel.  As they ready themselves, they find their breath visible as they breath.  And Jake’s frosty fingers trying to make its way in through the gap under the door.  When they try to open the door they find it difficult to move.  Once they have all put their weight upon it and budged it enough to escape the building, they find that a pile of snow had drifted across the doorway causing the problem.

The town landscape has brightened up from yesterday now the sun shines down on the white blanket that covers everything in sight.  There are the odd dirty foot prints that break up the beauty of the scene before them.  And they even see one citizen huddled up in their thick coat as they make their way quickly as they can from one building to the next.  The sky is greying as they take in the view.  The tops of the mountains can not be seen with the thick mist that has settled around the peaks.

The three Watch Dogs make their way over to Emmett’s once more.  The door is opened and they are greeted by Kisiah, again she is fully covered in a long black dress with long flared ruffles on both the wrists and hem, hiding her ankles and wrists.  After her little curtsy she asks them if they would like to see Emmett once more, and is about to head off for him when Jesse corrects her and informs her that they would like to see Honora.  Her face goes neutral for a brief moment as her smile vanishes, but quickly she smiles at them and heads off telling them that she will just go get her.

The Dogs step in and close the door, small puddles of water forming on the floor around their feet.  Soon Honora walks in from the kitchen, still wearing a green dress with beaded necklace and bracelets.  A quizzical expression crosses her face upon seeing them, and she asks them if something is wrong, letting them know that it is a pleasure to see them again.  Jesse asks if she was told that they had called by for her yesterday.  Honora looks around and informs them that her husband was indisposed when she had got back.

Jesse gets straight to the point and asks Honora how fair the Mountain Folk, wishing to know more on the new man that has set himself up in the mountains.  She agrees to tell them but first wishes to go to somewhere more private, as her husband doesn’t like her talking about the Mountain Folk too much.  She leads them to a small reading room settling them in and asking what exactly they wish to know.

Honora shares that she knows of this Elijah from talking with Bad Horse, the chief of the Mountain Folk.  They are not particularly happy with the man being encamped there, but he has not stepped out of the bounds of hospitality yet.  She tells them that she hasn’t had any personal dealings with the man, “He hasn’t tried to recruit me for his little…..” she pauses as she looks for the word, “…group yet.”  Sharing that the man must know that she would tell him no.  Bad Horse believes that what the man is doing is none of his business.  However he would not like the man to be there any long as it is causing discontent within the town, and he worries about what had almost happened before between them.  Otherwise they are indifferent to what is happening with the group at the encampment.  Elijah had gone before Bad Horse and asked to have a small place to stay, and in exchange he would not dishonour the spirits of the mountains.  The guy had approached and done everything in the correct way, so out of respect and honour Bad Horse could not turn him away.

The Watch Dogs agree that they will need to have a talk with this guy, and asks Honora if he would be under the protection of Bad Horse.  And whether they could go talk with Bad Horse about meeting this guy and how they feel.  Asking Honora if she would show them the way to meet with Bad Horse.  She agrees with the request, asking if she could get herself ready before leaving as she needs to prepare the children for the day.

While waiting Ambrose discusses with Joshua about the problem he will have with Sleeping Dog, and the fact that they will need to sort this out before it gets in the way of their work.  Honora hears this as she comes back after finishing her chores, and looks surprised at this making sure she had heard them correctly.  Ambrose assures her and informs her of what had happened last time they were in town.  That Sleeping Dog had his ego bruised and that they are now going to have a fist fight to hopefully settle things.  Honora walks over to Joshua and places her hands over his, “Please sir.  Please.  Do not hurt him too badly.  I know you will do what you must, but please do not hurt him.  He is a proud man and this is not viewed as a sin as it is here.”  Ambrose states that she seems to have a lot of concern for this man.  To which she blushes and states that she has concerns for all the Mountain Folk.  She spends a lot of time with them, talking and learning from them.  Jesse asks her how she felt with the news of her husband, and to tell them truthfully.  She tells them that she was honoured that her husband was respected so.

“But?”  Jesse pushes.

“What good wife would not like to see her husband happy?”  Jesse complements her on her concerns, but still pushes asking if it did not bother her that he spends all his attention on his new wife.  Honora’s eyes narrow as she looks straight at Jesse, cutting him short and telling him that it is their matter.  She thanks him for his concern, and Jesse tells her that they are concerned for all their followers.

Jesse asks her if she would do them the honour of accompanying them to meet with Bad Horse.  She is happy with this request and states that she will need to ask her husband first but that should be fine.  After she had gone, Brother Ambrose questions Brother Jesse’s approach.  Jesse informs him that would it not be a concern that she spends all her time with the Natives, and even shows concern for one of them.  He reminds him that there could be more to it and that he was only probing for any signs.  “I’m doing my duty.”  Ambrose reluctantly agrees with this statement, but reminds him that he could have been a little less crass, also the fact that they are asking her for her help.

Honora steps back in the room as the Dogs finish their debate, she now has a thick shawl over her shoulders, and a leather sheath holding a knife strapped to her waist.  The same that Jesse had a close look at before.

Honora leads the three Watch Dogs out in to the chill air with the wind now building up.  They go past the holy tree that was a concern last time they were in town, and then down past the stream before heading up in to the mountains.  The cold wind bites at their faces as they push themselves on.  The journey takes almost half the day before they arrive near to the camp for the Mountain Folk.  The Dogs can see that Honora seems to be well travelled on this route, even though it is difficult in places.  She knows where all the hazards are without looking, and points out any hand holds and helpful footings that will assist them on their travel.

As they draw close she warns them such, stating that they will probably be watching them and will soon come to meet them before they get too close.  For almost a quarter of an hour they can feel eyes upon them as they make their way through the trees.  As they make their way around an over hang on the ridge, they come upon two figures in furs and bows slung low.  The youths stand there with arrows notched loos in the bow ready.  As they approach one speaks, saying that he knows her and recognise the three Watch Dogs as the one that had come before.

“Sister Honora, these men give you trouble.  They force you here?”  Honora shakes her head to this, telling them that she is just showing them the way.  “They wish to speak with Bad Horse.”  The two youths ask them why they want to see Bad Horse, whether they are there to cause trouble, or to start a fight.  Jesse announces that they wish to avoid that, and only want to have a talk with him.  The young natives tell them that Bad Horse is very busy, and that they will have to wait there.  They will take them to him once he is free.

One of the young natives asks which one of them is the one called Joshua.  Jesse turns to Joshua and Ambrose steps back and turns to him too.  Joshua announces himself.  They snigger amongst themselves and tell him that they should have known, as they have a saying. ‘The bigger the bow, the smaller the man.’  Joshua just stands there looking at them and reminding himself not to react.  Honora stands with her hands on her shaking head looking at the ground.  “Please my friends will you not antagonise the Watch Dogs.  He is a man greatly respected among our faith.”  The two natives look at each and agree to this for her sake.  “A friend of sister Honora is a friend here.  So you keep friendly, hear.”  The three Watch Dogs nod in agreement.

One of the young natives moves off back the way he had come, while his colleague stays with the Watch Dogs & Honora.  “So we going to be here a while.  Do you know any good tales?”  He explains that they like to have the tales for the long cold nights, and that they hand down the tales from father to son, mother to daughter.  Brother Joshua sits himself down on a rock leaning his back against another, occupying himself with the view.  The young mountain man asks them if they know any tales of Grandfather Mantis.  Ambrose and Jesse apologise that they do not know of him, and are told that he is a very wise spirit.  Ambrose tells him that they do know tales of the King of Life, to which the young native tells them that he has heard many.  He then asks to be told of some wise things that the King of Life has done.  Both Ambrose and Jesse share with this native the early tales of how the King of Life became associated with the tree.  They also spend time debating on the principles of the faith.

After a time the native beckons, telling them that his friend has returns and now waves them to proceed.  He thanks them for their tales, wishing to share them with their own on a cold night.  The weather closes in as they are gestured forward, a hazy mist obscuring the near distance from view.  Soon they begin to see first the shadows of tents vague in the mist before they slowly materialise out from the mist as they walk closer.  A bright light source can be made out in the centre, its embers dance in the mists chasing away the cold and haze.

A tent flap is opened and a voice speaks out to them, “Well I didn’t expect to see you here again.  I hear you wanted to talk to me.”  Jesse thanks him for giving them the time to talk, sharing that they didn’t expect to return so soon either.  Bad Horse welcomes them in to the tent, telling them that he has just sanctified it.  “The shadow spirits shall not walk here.  We can talk freely.”  They all step in, ducking in through the opening, Joshua having to un-strap his rifle so he can walk through.  There is a strong smell of grease from the animal hides that make up the tent.  It is very warm within the tent, and they can feel cooling warm coals under foot.  As their eyes adjust they can see Bad Horse sat within, stripped to the waist with just his feathers tied to his head.  He is sat there with his legs folded before him, a confident smile on his face as he welcomes them to sit with him.  There is a slight heat haze in the air, and as they breathe in the air there is a sharpness to it as the clean fresh air takes their lungs by surprise.

Bad Horse confesses to the Watch Dogs that it has been good to have Honora as council, that she has been a very good friend to his people.  Jesse agrees saying that it has been good for her to be the bridge that spans the gap between them and the town.  He carries on by stating that it would be for the best if they kept their convocation between the men, and allow Honora to leave being sure that she can find things to do.

After Honora leaves the tent with a curtsy to them all, Jesse thanks Bad Horse for excusing her especially with what they need to discuss.  Bad Horse tells them that he thought so as he has heard that they would want to talk about the activities of the near by camp, explaining that it doesn’t both his people as much as it does them with their women folk.  Jesse explains that it is doing a lot more harm than good, to not only the women but also the men folk, to the whole town.  “Really, I heard that they are quite enjoying it.”  Bad Horse raises an eyebrow.  Ambrose adds that the damage is spiritual, taking them away from the faith.  Jesse carries on telling him that the man is blindly taking them away from the path and leading them to lose their souls, and the man shows no remorse for doing so.  Bad Horse agrees that he sounds like a dangerous man.

The Watch Dogs explain that they thought it best to come to him first, wanting him to know their actions and to not trespass on their land without his permission, or to harm someone under his protection.  Bad Horse tells them that they can freely go to talk with the man, he has no problems from him, however they do want to have their lands back to freely roam, to walk and hunt.  He also asks if they could not go in too heavy as one of their own women, Flying Eagle, has taken a warming to the encampment and the man.  He does not want to anger the tribe, but tells them that they are welcome to what they need to as they are of their people not his.  Just do not harm his people or tribe as it is peaceful here, and he doesn’t want to start a war.

Ambrose brings up the subject of Joshua and Sleeping Dog.  Bad Horse knows of this and states that Sleeping Dog is impatient, but wishes to know when they were going to settle this.  Joshua explains that they had other things to deal with first.  Bad Horse asks when he can tell his shadow hunter when the duel will take place, telling the Watch Dogs that it will be good for his people to watch this.  Joshua tells him that they need to deal with this Elijah first, and Bad Horse looks puzzled with this asking who Elijah is before sharing that the man’s name was Theodus.  Ambrose shares all the other names that the guy goes by, and Bad Horse tells them that ‘a man who does not lay claim to his name, does not claim to his actions.’  He also shares that when he first saw the man he was fishing and the fish had flopped from the hook to the land flapping around, so perhaps they should give him the name Flopping Salmon.

Before finishing Bad Horse shares that the man is likely to know that they are coming, as since Sleeping Dog has returned everyone has known, and he expects Flying Eagle to have told the man.  They thank him for his time and wisdom, telling him that they will let him know when the duel will take place.  Bad Horse makes a strange noise almost like a crow and a man opens the flap.  He is told that Honora may return.

Once Honora returns they discuss whether to let her take them to the encampment or if they will need another guide.  The Watch Dogs are concerned with her being exposed to the sin that is rife at the camp, but she agrees to guide them as she has nothing here.  After she gives Sleeping Dog a stern look to his comments, where he is trying to encourage a reaction from the Watch Dogs with his remarks.

The three Watch Dogs and Honora head back out in to the braising weather, this time they head in a downwards direction away from the Mountain Folk.  During the trip Honora is very quiet, apparently deep in thoughts of her own.  After about three quarters of an hour’s journey they begin to ascend once more, rising in to an area where the mountains open.  Honora stops and points out to the Watch Dogs where to find Elijah and his group camped.  She explains that she had found a warren of caves a few years back, and that is where they will find the sinners.

Honora asks that she will wait out side for them while they venture within the cave, explaining that she has a few things to think about.  Jesse tells her to call out if they need any assistance.  She sits herself down pulling her knife and telling them that she has been in these mountains on her own many a time and she can handle herself.

The opening to the cave is a wide gasping maw, very rough around the edges.  The ceiling soon declines down the further in they look.  And near the edge of the light they can make out some fires burning in the dark.  Within the entrance to the cave system they see an old gentleman sat in a rocking chair, with thick blankets wrapped around him and laid across his legs, his wrinkled blotched hands holds a decadent pipe to his mouth.  He blinks a few times upon seeing the three Watch Dogs enter, and then he speaks out, “Why we have three men approaching with guns everybody.  Don’t worry about Ol’ Ebonisa here, I’m sure they won’t ruff up an old man.  I don’t know what they want so what ya self ya hear.”  The old man then turns his full attention to the Watch Dogs and asks, “Hey you there. You friend or foe?”  Jesse tells him that they are friends of course.  The old man confesses that it is good to hear and asks if they are there for the freedom.  Jesse tells him that they are already free.  “The three of you!”  He raises his eyebrows as he looks at them, “We don’t judge here.  I understand.”  He then asks for there names, telling them his own.  Jesse again answers him as introducing himself as ‘Brother Jesse’, and then introduces Brother Ambrose and them Brother Joshua.  The old man Ebonisa carries on taking what is said the wrong way and exclaims that they are brothers, “We don’t judge but are you sure that.  I know we are open minded but you have to draw the line somewhere.  I think you will have to speak with Elijah about that.”  Slowly it dawns on the old man who they are asking for confirmation of the names, and finally putting two and two together and asks them that they are the Watch Dogs that had been in town before.  Ambrose confirms this for the old man.  Ebonisa then tells them that he doesn’t think that it is the place for them, to which Jesse tells him that it is exactly the correct place for them to be.

“Oh that was such a mix up.”  He says more to himself than to anyone in ear shot.  Ebonisa tells them that they are a friendly lot, but some of them will be a bit nervous around Watch Dogs.  He shows his concern for his friends within the cave, and lets the Dogs know that he doesn’t want any problems for them.  The Watch Dogs explain that they are not there to cause any problem, however it would depend on his friends whether it goes that way or not.  Ebonisa then others that he could get the person they want if they wait there, but they telling him to stay aside as they are going on in.  The three Watch Dogs slowly walk on in past the old look out.  However Ebonisa begins to raise his voice, calling out to his brethren that they are heading on in.  Jesse turns around and lifts his open hand to catch the old man across the face to quiet him down.  Ambrose twitches with this put doesn’t stop Jesse’s action.

The reaction from the cause seems to be more than was expected, as Jesse’s hand slap echoes in the opening and the old man cries out as he crumples.  From the darkness a woman tears out and slides up to the old man.  The Dogs just carry on not wishing to be stopped any longer with their duty.  The woman in her amber dress long and dragging on the rough cavern floor, she looks up with rage in her eyes.  She is no more than in her early twenties, her large frame tensing as she calls out.  “Hey there was no call for that!”  She then gives her full attention to the old man cradling him in her arms.  Next a large muscular man runs up and past the three Watch Dogs, giving them an evil looks as he rushes past and spitting on the ground.  “What the heck!?  Savages!”

People step out of the way of the three Watch Dogs as they walk through the cavern.  Strange sounds can be heard from off shoots in the main cavern as they walk down the passage.  The wet and gleeful sounds echoes and reverberate around the corners.  As they walk deep in the cavern gradually widens.  Ambrose demands all around them as they go that they are seeking “Elijah, or Theodus, or Josiah, or whatever he calls himself these days.”

Eventually they come upon a wide space with a simple altar at the far end.  The floor has a check board pattern, and four hooded figures stood before them, their robes tied with a simple rope, their heads covered and bowed before the fires.  Whispered voices pass between the hooded figures.  A panting female runs up behind the three Watch Dogs, her features are those of the Mountain Folk, a bow slung over her shoulder.  Perspiration can be seen on her tanned skin, and she quickly steps back in to the shadows once she realises that she can be seen.

One of the hooded figures stands and turns, stepping up before the Watch Dogs, the hood still covering the head concealing the face.  “Greetings.”  The voice sounding distant from within the cowl, “You are looking for Elijah. Yes?”  His words are spaced and measured, sounding more educated than most.  Ambrose confirms this and the hooded man continues, “Very well.  How may I help you?”

Ambrose asks if he is Elijah to which the hooded man states that he answers to many names.  During all this the other hooded figure can be seen watching from within their cowls, still no face to be seen.  Jesse keeps his eye on the three hooded figures for any danger that may present itself.  Elijah states that he heard the Watch Dogs had assaulted one of their men.  Gradually people have begun to filter in to the large open space, many of the hurriedly pulling clothes over themselves.  Again Ambrose asks what he should call the man, and is told that Elijah is good.  The man pulls the hood from his head, revealing a shaved head, the face having a scar over one side.  Next Ambrose asks him if he had been to Stubborn Mount before, and gets an answer of him having been to many places.  Next the question is if Elijah knows Waitstill and Azubah, and again the man states that he has known many people.  Ambrose demands that he will have to answer his questions, to which the man replies, “Why are you going to kill us all if not?”  Ambrose assures him that it is not his intention to kill anyone today.  Elijah avoids the pressing question and states to them that they have set up an alternative there.  Ambrose next mentions that Waitstill and Azubah were pregnant, to which Elijah asks if they intend to drag him back to them, or if they are wishing to bring them to him there in the cave.  Ambrose tells him that they want to put a stop to the man scurrying and hiding, skirting his responsibilities.  “I really think it is time for you to leave.  You are scaring the people here.”  Elijah demands ignoring any further statements from the Watch Dogs.  He carries on explaining that they wish to have a place for the outcast, a place where people can go to find love from others with no judgment.  The Watch Dogs keep pressing for answers to question that keep being avoided.  They ask for his name again this time asking for his birth name.

A figure from the back, one of the three other hooded figures steps forward.  He steps next to Elijah and places his hand on his shoulder giving a nod of his head.  Elijah walks away and leaves this new hooded person stood before the Watch Dogs.  The hooded figure stands there for a brief moment just looking out at the Watch Dogs, a smile crossing his face, his teeth bright white in the shadow of his hood, a white scar on his chin visible.  “Oh dear, dear brother.”  A familiar voice to Ambrose comes from within the hood.  “Still so self righteous.  They turned you in to one of them didn’t they?”  The figure addresses Ambrose directly.

“Simon.”  Ambrose replies, pausing before continuing.  “You turned me in to this…’brother’.”

“Oh dear, the worst thing I have every done.”  Ambrose quickly corrects him saying that he thinks not.  Simon Asks that they please do bring the two girls to him as he does miss them so, informing Ambrose that his colleagues had got too close when he was in town so he had to leave.  “I was told that if I was ever caught again by one of ‘your’ crew, that it would be a shallow grave for me.”

“I wouldn’t trust you to stay there.”  Simon laughs at this, and insists that they bring the girls to him.  He tells Ambrose that he was happy there for a while.

“You never stopped running away.”

“Your kind kept coming too close.  I was happy there in the town, but your kind drove me away.  I was happy with those two in the town, and your kind drove me away.  And now I am happy here, you’re going to drive me away again?  You’re going to leave more whore children?”

“Don’t talk to a Watch Dog about your self satisfaction and happiness.  Don’t talk to a Watch Dog about that.”  Simon carries on explaining how happy he was in the town with the two young ladies, being happy with the kids, but complains about the Watch Dogs driving him away, being forced to go from town to town.  Simon argues about the people that are there with him in the cave, and what will happen with them, stating that they have been forced from their towns with no one to love them and they have a life now there with him.  Ambrose persists that it will have to end, that there will be no more from today.  His sinning religion will have to end, however Simon argues that it is no religion but just a community, and that everyone still believes.  He states how difficult it is for them to walk around in the light with a bullet aimed at their head.  Ambrose insists that he will have to come out in to the light.

“Why?  So you can kill me dear brother.”

Ambrose tells his brother Simon that he only wants to take him back to town and the chapel there, to let him see what he is throwing away.  Simon insists that it was not him that threw anything away.  It was in fact him that was thrown away.  He tells him that he should go to the chapel and pray all he likes, and if he prays loud enough he may hear him.  And so they argue for a time going back and forth, Ambrose trying to convince Simon to go peacefully with him back down to the chapel in town.  Simon however argues that he has done nothing wrong, and wishes to stay in peace with his community.  And that he wants the Watch Dogs to leave them now.  Simon even calls in the gathering crowd in the argument, insisting that they don’t even want them there.  A woman with a baby in her arms steps forward and raises a fist shouting for the Watch Dogs to get out and leave them alone.  Simon even gets heated up throwing his hood off, his face going red and veins showing on his forehead.

Seeming to go nowhere, Ambrose steps up to Simon and throws him a punch, telling him that he has spent his life running away.  Simon does a quick back step getting enough distance to just avoid the punch, “You’re just like them.  If you can’t get what you want then you will pull your guns or resort to fighting.  I hate you!”  He then steps forward trying to head butt his brother.  Ambrose seeing this action quickly side steps away from the attack, and then grabs a hold of Simon’s head, by the hair.  Ambrose then begins to drag Simon through the crowd and the cave.  Simon struggles under the grasp but without success.  Jesse and Joshua help the proceedings by making sure that anyone else is out of the way for Ambrose to drag his brother free from the cave complex.

Honora looks up with shock on her face as she sees Brother Ambrose dragging the man she knows as Elijah out on his knees from the cave and through the frozen ground.  “I think we can leave now.”  Ambrose tells her looking her way.  The crowd from the cave follow as far as the entrance way, but venture no further realising who they are dealing with and thinking it best not.

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