24th of Seven Month, 281st Year of the Triumvirate
After leaving the relatively civilized environs of New Crowndon, I traveled south on an errand for the Governor. Normally I wouldn’t associate with such political nonsense, especially for a person and place that I have no allegiance to, but I was paid a lot of money and the details had me curious. Also, a Society operative in the area heard that I had been approached, relayed the information back to my Society handler and orders came down to help out. Orders are orders.
It didn’t take very long to infiltrate the movement planning the governor’s demise and dismantle them from within; these backwoods colonial types were easy to fool, and even worse, desperate. So desperate that they didn’t even blink at the Nor Eastern twinge in my voice when I spoke as long as I maintained enthusiastic support for their bloodlust.
With my job completed, the assassination conspiracy completely dismantled and fresh coin in my pocket, I set off for the southern frontier to pick up the Lelina expedition’s trail.
My hopes were low; it had been nearly a year since Adella and her cohorts had come through, and my destination, Docryville, was a place in a constant state of transience. People never stayed there for long, and memories tended to be short in such a place.
The journey to Docryville was long, humid, and all around miserable. I’ve stayed in my share of mud-holes over the course of my short life: my father never set down roots, and would constantly drag me from place to place, looting ruins. The papers labelled him a grave-robber after he was caught, and while there was certainly a bit of truth to that it stemmed mainly from a need to take care of me, and he wasn’t completely without academic curiosity.
After his arrest I became a ward of the state. That didn’t sit well with me, so I ran. Spent much of my young teens running the streets, sleeping in abandoned buildings or on top of the occasional roof. As soon as I could, I joined the Nor Eastern military. Women in combat roles in Nor Easter are not so unusual, but I was given the role of courier. During a run I proved useful in sabotaging the equipment of a Crowndon war party that was sent to intercept us, and that earned me a new title as an agent provocateur. This meant more mud on my clothes, and more blood on my hands. Some of it– much of it– was innocent blood, I’m sorry to say.
The point is, I’m not entirely unaccustomed to harsh conditions. So believe me when I say the journey through the southern frontier was distinctly unpleasant. They have mosquitoes here that are half the size of my fist when engorged on blood, and about fifty different diseases we have no name for in the Triumvirate. Lucky me, the worst thing I came down with was dysentery (and believe me when I say I’m fully aware of how ridiculous that statement might seem.)
Mostly recovered but still a bit dehydrated, I arrived in Docryville. My first order of business was a hotel, bath, and clean water. Perhaps some whiskey. While I went about my errands I kept an ear open. Most of the colonial citizens were concerned with the recent trouble with the indigenous territories. Most of the indigenous citizens were concerned with keeping their heads down, likely afraid the merest hint of unrest could lead to a mob.
None of this was my concern, however, so I eventually filtered it out, as well as talk of autumn festivals, upcoming marriages, hog breeding and other inanities. Note to self: frontier general stores are not a good source of intelligence, in any sense of the word.
I didn’t want to go poking around the local sheriff’s office. Doing so tends to rile up the locals and make them curious about me, but it was beginning to look like I didn’t have a choice. I decided to bite the bullet and head that way, but not before I got that whiskey. I think I deserved that much.
I headed into one of the port towns many saloons. It was a fairly roaring place, even at three in the afternoon. A man plinked at a piano while a couple danced and a nice crowd had gathered around a dice table. I started to make my way to the bar when I noticed a picture hanging on the wall next to the dice dealer.
“Excuse me, sir?” I said, approaching him. He stopped what he was saying and gave me a perturbed look.
“I’m sorry, Miss. You’ll have to wait your turn.”
“I just have a quick question about that picture.” I pointed to it. It was a hastily taken photograph of what appeared to be Veronica Trenum and Mathias McKay, or so I assumed, seeing as he looked vaguely familiar and just as shady as the man I once met. They each had huge smiles on their faces and two armloads of chips.
“Troublemakers, the both of them.”
“See all them chips?”
“Every single one of them came out of my pay. I’m still paying that shit off.”
“Anything else you can tell me about them?”
“Not really. Heard they were involved in a spot of trouble down the river, after they left here.”
He turned his head and spit. The wad of milky brown spit landed on the shoe of a man standing next to him, but the man didn’t seem to notice.
“What sort of trouble?”
“Don’t you read the papers, lady?”
“Not really. Never have the time.”
The dealer shook his head. The other players were starting to look at me now with the same annoyance.
“It was about a year ago, I reckon,” said the dealer with a less than subtle grumble. “A couple days after Von Grimm came through. They all got back on their boat, headed south. The boat exploded. A problem with the boiler.”
“That weren’t it, Yancy,” said the man with the loogie on his shoe. He looked up at me. “They was attacked, I heard.”
“Attacked? By whom?”
“Don’t know. Just know they were carrying six shooters and wearing Blue uniforms. My cousin’s best friends veterinarian’s dog walker was on the boat, you see. Saw the whole thing.”
Men in blue uniforms with six shooters…just like the couple that attacked Professor Oates.
“These blues, has anyone seen anyone like them around since?”
“Oh, sure,” said Yancy. “Been a lot of them around the last six months or so. Hell, two of them are standing right behind you.”
I turned around and managed a glimpse of the Monteddorian and Bianca, as well as the glint of a gun butt coming at my face. My vision flashed white, then faded to black.