Zahariel watched the dawning of another day in Dry Gulch. She felt a sense of…..curiousity, or at least that was the closest mortal concept she could come up with to describe it, as she watched the Wanderer make his way back into town. He had been somewhere, and it might be pertinent to her reason for being down on the mortal plane. Shaking her head, she decided that it was most likely more mortal nonsense and there would be no sense in pursuing it. She watched his meandering path through the town, noting that he checked the “watering holes” first, and finding them devoid of any activity at this hour headed to the Sheriff’s office.
The Seeker also beat most of the town to wakefulness, although he headed almost directly to the Sheriff’s office, pausing only to nod at the rooftop where he noticed Zahariel maintaining her vigil. She thought she heard murmurs of conversation between the two in already in the office, but they were drowned out by the rest of the town coming to life. The Enigma had been working his job as a stage deceiver the night before, so the angel knew from experience that that one wouldn’t be showing for a long while. The last of the group to come out was the Scared One.
He was quite convincing, she thought. Without her gifts, she never would have recognized the man in the dossier she found at the Order of Zarkos’ Hospice with the man that came stumbling out of the cat’s house. The cat’s house was another mortal saying that made no sense to her – she had never seen a single cat in the building. When it became apparent that the Scared One was going to meet with the others, Zahariel dropped to the street and strode into the Sheriff’s Office.
The office was a cramped affair, not really large enough to comfortably accommodate the group. The atmosphere was not at all improved by the aroma emanating from the alligator carcass that remained in one of the three cells for over the past two weeks. Luckily, the dry heat had preserved it in such a way that as long as it wasn’t disturbed, the smell would be bearable. Just as they were about to discuss their next move, the sound of gunshots called Zahariel back out to the street.
Five men on horseback rode into town firing indiscriminately into the air. Zahariel ran down the road at a full sprint, noting the emotionless face of the attackers an instant before she tackled him off of his horse. The impact sent a small cloud of dust into the air as the bandit she had tackled lost consciousness. Before she could even start to reorient herself, her fallen foe dissolved into a mist, clothing and all. She looked around to see the other assailants do likewise as her companions were quick to dispatch the opposition. The group managed to subdue one without him dissipating first, and proceeded to lock him in the cell next to the dead alligator.
Truth called to Zahariel from within it’s scabbard. She could not recall having ever run into a phenomenon like these mist-men before, and the urge to draw the blade and learn the base truth tugged at her. However, she knew the price of using the sword – there was no way to filter the Truth it provided, and history had shown that there were certain things she simply was not prepared to face right now. She successfully resisted the temptation, and left the blade in its place.
The others had begun to interrogate the prisoner, and Zahariel watched with her inhuman detachment as the captive released puffs of the mist when injured. After a while with no results, the group focused on developing their next plan of action. As her mind wandered, probing again into her past and the sequence of events that brought her here, a new distraction was brought on by the captive convulsing in pain and writhing on the floor until he eventually dissipated like the others in the street. The mortals resumed the planning, and Zahariel found herself treading the familiar path of her past and her purpose in her mind while they bickered over the next steps. She was snapped from her introspection when the Wanderer suddenly punched the Scared One in the face and stormed out. The seeker was quick to follow the Wanderer, and after a quick check to ensure that the Scared One was not in danger of death, the angel followed the two of them out.
The three rode back out to the prison, and observed a heavy amount of activity at the gate. Whether confused, fearless, or just plain stupid, the Wanderer proceeded to march up to the entrance of the prison, and was promptly escorted inside. Unable to comprehend the mental workings of mortals, and understanding that the Wanderer was not in danger of immediate death, Zahariel turned back to town and was followed closely by the Seeker.
Returning to town, the two of them found that the Enigma had finally roused himself from slumber. The remainder of the day was spent with the Enigma investigating the vapor released from the false bandits, the Seeker pouring through several documents regarding the prison and its inmates, while Zahariel followed the Scared One around town looking for those with possible connections to the Longshot gang or the other inmates. Their search led them to the Wild Hare’s, another of the human “watering holes”.
This particular watering hole was particularly dark and uninviting, and in her detached way Zahariel observed the bartender using spittle and a rag that was once white to imitate the actions of cleaning various glassware. Two men, dressed for travel in the open and wearing bandanas, approached her. Prepared for hostility, she was surprised to be offered the opportunity to join the Longshots, and in return they would house and feed her. Having no need for housing or food, she was going to decline when the Scared One’s hand gesturing caught her eye. He seemed to be indicating that he was in danger from these two men, so in a blur of motion, heaven’s hitwoman landed a right cross that crumpled one’s nose and sent him to the floor in a peaceful slumber. As the other ran out the door, the Scared One indicated that Zahariel should pursue, so she caught the man in the street and barreled him over before delivering a knockout blow that loosened several teeth. The two Longshots were dragged back to the Sheriff’s Office and imprisoned. During the interrogation that ensued, the gator corpse must have been disturbed, since it began to emit an almost debilitating stench. The stench was not improved when the Seeker arrived shortly thereafter with the corpse of the Wanderer, who had apparently been shot seven times while trying to escape the prison. While Zahariel couldn’t understand why he would walk into the prison willingly only to try and escape later, she could understand death. As she prepared to give the Wanderer his last rites, the Seeker stopped her. “Wait and see, maybe he ain’t all that dead yet.” Just when she was prepared to write the Wanderer off for good, he took a rattling breath, then another, and called out for some bourbon. The angel found her hand move involuntarily toward the sword on her back, but for the second time in one day, she controlled the urge. Still, she knew dead, and the man had been dead. She would have to follow this up later.
When they managed to gather the group again, they listened to the Wanderer’s account of the Prison and his “escape”. It was soon decided that they could not take on the Prison with a full-out assault. The Enigma revealed that he could achieve some form of control over the mist, and reform it with the force of his will, but was unsure if it would work on the bandits before they were dissipated. The group devised a plan to start thwarting the Longshots, hopefully restoring some balance to the town and whittling down the forces holed up in the prison. While Zahariel spent day and night riding with caravans in and out of the town, the Scared One recruited more assistants while the remainder of the group sought to protect the local farms. Through their heroic defense of the town and victories over the bandits during raids, the town began to believe that they could fight back against the Longshots. Citizens were more likely to help, and fewer people were disappearing to the Longshots’ recruitment efforts. Zahariel waited with the patience of one who has all the time in the world – if they continued to thwart the Longshots at every opportunity, either the gang would leave the area and seek easier targets, or be forced to act rashly. For some reason she couldn’t place, she found that she was actually hoping for the latter…….