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[Dogs in the Vineyard] IC Thread: On the Tree of Life, Many Branches Divided
From the edge of the post's territory, three men stand in the barest of coverings despite the hail of snow coming down all around them. Their skin is pale, and their eyes are glazed. Absolutely still they stand, staring off into the distance. What they see or hear, we shall never know.
Perfectly, they stand, straight in a line, side-by-side.
The one on the far left licks his lips, his tongue whipping past his teeth and just as soon back in, before baring them against the harsh winter.
"Have mercy, King."
The other two snarl, their brows furrowed and fists clenched. Statues in the snow. The one in the middle reaches out at the air, at nothing, grabbing at snowflakes, his hand straining and trembling, his body leaning forward just slightly - he pulls back, his invisible target just out of reach, and he grabs his own hair, pulling at it, wincing, yelling.
Quickly, the three of them turn and trudge back towards the post, the snow past their ankles and only getting deeper.
==================== I. Three Wise Men
Fort Lemon is on the eastern-most edge of Faithful territory, the first settlement past the mountains. It is a trading post and garrison. It has no Faithful, and is not even a Branch. Its founder is William Lemon, a Mountain Man.
Months ago, the Prophets and Ancients of the Faith called for the sudden dispatching of several companies, all to make their way west with great speed and minimal preparation. Their reasons were never explained, at least not to the Branch Stewards.
- - -
Eleazar, Jacob, and Caleb, horseback, pass through the mountains. They watch a dispatch past, official business from the Temple. These strangers don't stop to talk, and instead speed on past.
Probably, it's to do with the Watson Company. The survivors are holding up in Fort Lemon. Hit by the blizzard something terrible, not prepared. That's where the Dogs themselves are headed, to the Fort. The Teachers had warned them, "It's not our land. It's not a Branch unto the Faith. But go and spread our good word, and tend to the survivors."
William Lemon, they said, is a stern man. He does not like our kind.
The few Dogs who had gone to lend a hand reported back, Yeah, don't cross 'im. He's about ill as a hornet, don't care too much for the Faith. They said, An' be careful - the Good King ain't graced that place yet. You bound to see vulgarities ain't decent to us normal folk.
He is not an evil man, and he took the Watson Company in, fed and cared for them. But he is not pleased with the intrusion, and does not hesitate to show it.
It's your job to go and become permanent attendants for a few months. Once the spring thaw sets in and the Watson Company is up and ready, you can head on along your route.
- - -
You walk, your horses clopping through the snow, your blankets huddled around you. The old Fort is just up ahead, not much longer now.
It's quiet, except for the whirr of the wind and the settling of hooves.
Up ahead, you start to come upon Fort Lemon, and near the gates, someone sees something half-buried in the snow. As you pass by, you see it is a hand, withered black with frostbite. It unapologetically reaches out for you, skin pale, a few fingers missing.
Up ahead, the man himself, William Lemon stands, arms crossed. One or two others move around the Fort, doing busy-work. Everyone else is inside.