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James Miller April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
James Miller sat in a city of ghosts. He sipped his coffee as he watched the many dark figures moving through the mist that rolled off the Missouri river. They shared a common goal, soon each one of them would join him on the long trail towards the future, perhaps many miles apart, but all trekking the same worn path that hundreds had walked before. Even though he wouldn’t meet most of them, he felt a sense of kinship with each one. His post at the helm of the first of his wagons made a fine viewing point as he awaited his company beside the river.

Most of them had already signed the party contracts and met with him, but he had his hopes up for sticklers. A large group meant a safer group, more hands to help one another if the worst occurred, and better prospects for Salvation as a town.

He sipped his coffee again, trying to swallow his fears. It was only dawn, there was still time. He’d promised to wait until noon. It was still cool this time of year, warmer than Boston at least, but the mist began to get to him. He slid off the wagon and began to pace, nervously rubbing his thumb across his cup. Things would be fine. He was prepared, he had his field guides, he did all of his advertisements properly, it would be fine. It had to be fine.

His fretting was paused as his wife's voice cut through the mist, a single pale hand settling on his shoulder and stopping him in his tracks.

“Did you hear me, Jay?” Her voice was quiet as it often was, soft, but cold. His favorite sound.

He chuckled nervously, taking her hand in his own and squeezing it. “I didn't, sorry dove.” He gave her a soft smile as he looked into the green lagoons of her eyes, enraptured as he always was. Stars, he was a lucky son of a gun. Laura was an angel on earth, her emerald gaze hidden beneath heavy brows that were all too often furrowed in concern or deep thought that he could never quite crack open. She had the solemn beauty of a cemetery statue with just as much resilience to compliment it. Really, he was damn blessed he’d gotten her before anyone else had, especially at her age. The fellas at her fancy college must've been stupid or blind, something he thanked the Lord for every chance he got.

“I think it’s about time to see about livestock. We need at least twelve oxen for the wagons and a couple of horses if you don't want to walk. Prices won't be great here, but they’ll be even worse on the trail.” Laura explained, glancing upwards as she did her mental mathematics. “Did you ever hire anyone to drive? With it being just the two of us, a third to divide the driving with would mean a lot.”

James nodded along. “I'm hoping one of the families traveling with us won't mind making an extra dollar. Lots of them have older teens coming along.” He explained. “I'll see to it we get at least one driver if not two.” He smiled before kissing her hand. “I don't want my sweet girl getting torn up.”

She frowned. “Right. Thank you dear.” She forced a smile as she pulled her hand away. James tried not to let it hurt his feelings, he liked her independence. She continued as he straightened up. “I'll keep watch and handle anyone who shows up. Try to get to it before the best animals are gone.”

She patted his shoulder and he grinned, giving her a teasing “yes ma’am” before finishing his coffee and heading towards town. Plenty of horse wranglers and ranchers set up shop just outside of independence, not at all far from the Miller party rendezvous point. It shouldn't be hard at all to find what he needed.


Hosea SinclairApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Bears. Wolves. Wild mountain cats. Coyotes. Sinkholes. Canyons hidden by brush. Powerful rivers that were less than knee deep but strong enough to sweep you away for good. Lightning storms. Hail. Blizzards. Disease. Famine. Hosea had heard all the stories of the dangerous creatures that he could face going west - not to mention the dangerous weather and terrain and turns of poor luck. It all sounded scary, of course - only a man without a lick of sense would be entirely unafraid. He had faith God would see him through these trials and get him exactly as far as he needed to go.

But… the thing Hosea was not prepared for was the nerves and anxiety that rattled his frame as he stood staring up at the crowded, mist-covered street that stretched out in front of him. People bustled back and forth, in all states of excitement. Some carried trunks or suitcases, others papers or sacks or armfulls of tools. Several held rope in their hands and were tugging along animals.

Independence, Missouri was a town of Godless ambition and greed, but it was a necessary first stop in his mission westward. Not an entirely pleasant one either. The amount of people around made Hosea nervous, but also the sheer variety of people who were looking to make the dangerous trek. Men and women of all ages, all ethnicities, all religions, all… everything! … Hosea had never seen such a collection of people before.

It was a little bit of a culture shock, and he found himself not knowing what to do with his hands, other than wring them.

He’d taken a seat atop his trunk, resting for a moment as he people-watched. There was a lot to startle him, but a lot to make him curious as well. On the surface it looked like chaos, but if you studied the town long enough, there was a sort of organization to it. People flowed through the shops like fish headed downstream, arriving at the town on one end and congregating at the far opposite side. Those who were getting ready to depart were spread out at the edge of town, preparing to cross the river once they were packed and all souls accounted for.

He’d yet to run into any other Mormons, but they were quite adept at blending in and hiding as needed. Certainly, any others would be doing the same. That didn’t matter, though - he wasn’t looking for a Mormon wagon train to head to Utah. No, there would be plenty in the promised land to start building without him. He was going to California. A relatively untouched land that still needed to be graced, still needed them, still needed him.

He was needed - he was sure of it - and as he looked down at the advertisement in his hands (now wrinkled from being held too tightly and folded dozens of times) he was positive this was the right choice.

Salvation. It was obviously a sign - this was to be his wagon party, these were to be his companions west. Whatever the Miller Mercantile Company had in mind when naming the town, Hosea had no way of knowing yet, but he knew in his heart it was all part of the grand plan.

Folding, unfolding, and folding the paper again, Hosea tucked the advertisement into his coat pocket and climbed to his feet, hefting his trunk off the ground by its sturdy handle. It wasn’t terribly heavy or unnecessarily large - he had made sure to pack smartly with no wasted space and no unnecessary nonsense. He would contribute much, but take up very little space while doing so.

Cool mist clung to Hosea as he trotted his way down the line of wagons getting ready to depart that day, respectfully placed far enough apart to not be in each other’s way. He was uncertain what anyone from the Miller company looked like, so he politely inquired with the wagons as he passed - receiving plenty of answers in the negative.

At the next wagon in line, Hosea spotted a woman who looked less than entertained as she stared at the departing form of a man that strode bravely into the mist towards town. He paused for a moment, watching the two to make sure he wasn’t interrupting some kind of spat. When no voices were raised and the man had departed, it seemed the only person left here to approach was the woman.

“Ma’am.” Hosea piped up from a bit of a distance so that she wasn’t startled. “Would you perhaps be with the Miller Mercantile party? I’m looking to sign on.” With his free hand, Hosea took the advertisement from his pocket and gave it a little shake, holding it up for her to see what he was talking about as confirmation. By now, the poor abused piece of paper was rather rumply, dog-eared, and starting to get thin in one crease.

"Hosea Sinclair, at your service, as a humble servant of God."


Nukchinto Taloa & Wakeli LuaokaApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
“That’s a terrible price for a horse.” Taloa scowled at the man, sweaty, flabby, and desperate looking, who stood before him. Lua was already crossing her arms and opening her mouth to say something - something probably harsh, cutting, and perhaps a judgment as to the size of the man’s brains or bits for making such a low offer. Not feeling like getting shot today, Taloa held up his hand and gave her a look that pled for peace.

Lua glowered at them both now, jaw silently working for a moment, before she huffed and walked away - pulling the horse by the reins after her. It followed along obediently, swishing its tail as if it too were offended by being lowballed.

“It's a plenty fine offer for a horse that belonged to one of you.” The sweaty man spat back, making a face of disgust and frustration as his four-legged opportunity was trotted off. “Ain’t worth more than that. Maybe a few small coin extra for an hour or two alone with the woman.” The man got a smirk on his face as he motioned in the direction Lua had gone. Thankfully, she was out of earshot, tying the horse up to a post where it could drink from a trough. The horse stared boredly at the water, looking as unimpressed as Lua did.

“I suggest you leave now.” Taloa responded quickly but flatly. He felt his eye twitch and a muscle in his jaw clench.

“Fuckin injuns.” The man grumbled under his breath as he paced away, off to go harass someone else for the things he needed for his trip west. Taloa silently hoped the man fell off a cliff along the trail. A fairly quick death. Maybe.

Frustrated, Taloa rubbed his hands against his face and went to join his sister at the hitching post. The posts and troughs lined the street, in front of almost every building. Many were occupied, but not all. Their own two horses were tied up nearby so they could keep an eye on them while trying to sell this third horse.

“You have that look on your face.” Lua commented as Taloa approached, running a hand soothingly along the horse’s side.

“What look?” Taloa tried to arrange his face into anything other than anger and irritation, but wasn’t sure if all the muscles were cooperating.

“You know. The look. The one that says you’re yelling at someone in your head while staying stone-silent. If you keep doing that, you’ll swell up until you burst.” Lua gestured at the sides of her head when she spoke of bursting.

“That’s not a look. That’s just… my every-day face. It’s fine. I’m fine. We’ll find a buyer.” Taloa sighed. Realizing he had crossed his arms over his chest, which only served to make him look hostile, Taloa uncrossed his arms as he scanned the road.

“Mhm, if you say so.” Lua murmured, moving to stand next to Taloa and wrap her arms around one of his own. She stood on her toes, resting her chin on his shoulder, and grinned.

“What about that red-haired man, down that way?” She didn’t point, but tipped her head to the side, motioning towards someone.

“He looks like he has money, and he looks like he might not be completely awful.” She turned her head a little, watching James in the near distance.

“He looks lost. It’s your turn, but I think you’d scare him.” Taloa murmured, not finding the same enthusiasm and hope that his sister had. Lua tsk’d and let go of her brother, moving over to untie the horse from the post. Once free, she held the reins out to Taloa to take.

“I don’t care. Go sell the horse, you can have my turn. I want to get out of here before it’s too late in the season.” Lua reached up, patted Taloa’s cheek as if he were the younger sibling and not the other way around, and then stepped away and waited for Taloa to make his move. Defeated but at the same time realizing he had to keep trying, Taloa took in a breath and waited until the man was a little bit closer before leading the horse over towards James, formulating a plan with every step he took.

“Horse for sale! Well-mannered and in good health!” Taloa put on that ‘merchant hawking his wares’ voice, but his eyes were planted right on James.


Juno BelroseApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri

Juno had spent the night before packing what she could. Packing the trunk at the end of her bed would be suspicious, she couldn't carry that out without at least one of her parents asking what she was planning. Instead, she packed a bag with as many clothes as she could fit. It was all she really had, anyway... No guns, no knives, nothing to help her survive, just a spare skirt, blouse, a few pairs of undergarments and socks, and a notebook and pen. She presumed they'd be washing their clothes on their journey... or they'd all be equally stinky. Either way, she didn't really mind. As long as she got where she needed to be.

She had breakfast with her family as she typically did, her father at the head of the table, and she and her mother sat across from each other. She'd need adequate fuel before she left for her arduous journey... and she wanted one last meal with her mother before she disappeared. However, the anxiety in her gut made it hard to eat. She felt... guilt. Her mother was kind, she was just doing her best, and leaving her behind felt... wrong... but telling her her plans and inviting her along could ruin everything. She could try and stop her or, God forbid, tell her father.

She trotted down the stairs, bag slung over her shoulder as she searched the downstairs coat hooks for her hat.
"Juno?" Her mother called out from the kitchen, making Juno jump. She leaned back so her head was visible through the doorway, watching her mother as she worked.
"Where are you off to, darlin'?" She asked, the accent she'd picked up from her husband mingling with the one she had learned in China.
Juno stepped into the kitchen, joining her at the counter in front of the window. She pointed through the glass at Amigo.
"Ah, going for a ride?" Mei smiled, glancing over at her beloved daughter... Her cheek had a twinge of blue. Her father had gotten good at hiding his violence, only striking where he knew would be concealed by clothing... but his rage had gotten the better of him a few nights prior. She gently cupped Juno's face in her palm, her own twinge of guilt creating a pit in her gut.
"Are you sore?" She asked. Juno held her hand up, the tips of her pointer finger and thumb less than a centermeter apart, as if to say a little.

"I noticed you weren't hungry at breakfast..." Mei began, letting go as she wrapped something in wax paper, "I thought I'd pack you something."
She handed Juno the carefully packaged parcel of food with a carrot rested on top.
"For Amigo," She smiled.
The sight of such a perfectly wrapped lunch and a little snack for her horse made Juno feel sick. Could she still do this? Abandon her own mother? Her face burned as her throat grew tight. She wrapped her arms around her mother, her chin resting on her shoulder. Mei smiled, petting the top of her head.
"Ride safe, okay? I'll see you at dinner."


Juno found herself teary-eyed as she tightened the cinch on her horse's saddle, working slowly and carefully to avoid squeezing his tummy too tightly. She was sure Amigo could feel the tension, his tail swishing, the muscles in his face taught. She attached her bag to his saddle before she paused, taking a few deep breaths... It felt unfair to get on when she was so upset, she needed to be calm so Amigo could be calm. She'd prepared him the night before, giving him a good wash and groom and braiding his mane to try and keep his neck nice and cool. Her father liked to tease her for that, calling him a kid's show pony. Amigo would be offended if he understood English.

Eventually, she untied Amigo's reins from the fence and stepped onto the bottom rung, using it as a step stool to get into the saddle. She adjusted her skirt, made sure her bag was firmly affixed to the saddle, before gently squeezing Amigo's side with her heels. As he walked on, she scratched at his withers with her fingernails as a reward for being such a good boy.

She looped the reins around the horn of her saddle as she pulled a note from the pocket of her skirt. This note was vital. Without it, she couldn't communicate. She held it under the shadow her wide-brimmed hat created, checking her spelling and grammar, before neatly folding it and putting it away. During the trips she'd taken into town to buy whatever supplies her parents requested, she'd seen lots of wagons preparing for their trip west. It was that time of year, every spring her father would sell their crops to travelers looking for supplies, every spring since the day she was born and likely for decades before that. She just had to find one party willing to take her with them...
Washington ZhaoApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri

Washington stood beside his wagon and nervously lit his cigarette as he leaned on his cane. Dark and solemn eyes focused on the ground in front of his boots as he took in a long drag of the smoke and after a moment, exhaled it through his nostrils. He was not particularly excited at all about what he was doing, but something deep within him had compelled him to leave - perhaps it was a sensation of guilt, or perhaps he just sought to put as much distance as he could between himself and New York.

Despite his youth, he was a meticulous man and he had made a check list of everything that he would need for the journey towards California. He had spent the past several months carefully saving up his pay from working at the local General Store - the first job the young man had ever held. The kind man who had employed the 19 year old had even given Washington some free supplies for his journey westward on his final day of work.

Out of habit, he pulled out the neatly written list he had made for himself and stared at the last sentence left unchecked.

Meet with Mr. Miller and inform him of his intentions to travel with his party to Salvation.

The name Salvation held neither religious nor any other sort of symbolic meaning to the young Buddhist. He did not expect to find peace or protection on the opposite side of the country from where he was born - certainly not any form of salvation. No, the melancholic man expected only more of the same - suffering and pain. He sighed heavily as he finally raised his eyes up to look at the people as they moved around him. To live is to suffer. Words that once meant a quite different thing to him than they did now.

Once the heat of the tip of his cigarette had reached his fingers, Wash dropped it to the ground and snuffed it out with his boot. A part of him had to fight the urge to immediately light another, but he was more than aware of the fact that the time had come to make all of this preparation official - he could no longer delay, or he would be left behind.

Following logic, Washington slowly made his way towards the front of the line, leaving his cane back with his own small wagon and supplies, as he was not particularly eager to show off his own physical limitations for what he was sure would be an arduous journey. Though he did not find the man who matched the description he had been provided by others, he did see a rather stern looking woman who was speaking with another man who had asked the question Wash would have asked her himself.

So instead he waited for his turn, then removed his hat and bowed his head in respect.

"Good morning." The solemn-faced young man spoke - not in broken English or with heavily accented speech as many might expect from a man who looked as he did - but rather in a manner of speaking that one might associate with that of an elite, well educated, New Yorker that was his true background.

"My name is Washington Zhao, and I am planning to join the group traveling to Salvation today. I have not yet signed the contract as outlined in the ad posting, but I have otherwise gathered the necessary supplies, and it is my intent to do so now.. if it is not already too late." He was a dreadfully serious young man.

For a moment he looked up into her eyes and gave the small, polite - but practiced - smile that he often wore while speaking with customers in the General Store. He then briefly turned to the other man and nodded his head in greeting, before dropping his eyes once more to the ground at his feet.

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Molly GoodbarrelApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri

Molly Goodbarrel was having an awesome day. Her horses were fed, watered, and bore fresh shoes; her night in Independence had been a lucrative one; and though she needed to move on, a poster proclaiming a wagon train out West sounded promising. She'd closed up shop just past two or three in the morning, after taking the banner off her wagon, locking her door, and bedding down. She'd trusted that the noise outside would wake her in time. True to form, it did so, and she fetched her horses from the stable and hitched them to her transportation and, unlike many heading west, her home. Molly had obtained the reading wagon fairly early on in her independence, modifying it to go properly off-road and affording her the luxury of having a place to sleep that doubled as a storage unit and even a neat living space. More importantly, her reading wagon allowed her to tell fortunes while not being around when the future slid into the present and her predictions succeeded or failed to materialize.

The future was always easier to predict when one wasn't around to confirm it so.

After cleaning herself and dressing in a pretty, baby-blue frock that gave a little color to her pale cheeks and made her black hair shine, Molly made sure the horse hitch was both well fitted and padded against the horses' skin, and looked around for the...... for the.....

Molly watched as two Indians across the street tried to sell their horse to a white man, with little success. She couldn't hear what the trio were saying to one another, but the girl left her husband (did Indians take husbands and wives? Molly had no idea) behind and walked towards the cluster of wagons that was unquestionably the Miller Party, a handful of prairie schooners gathering in one place before setting out into unknown waters. The prospective buyer sauntered off, looking disgusted.

Horse for sale! Well-mannered and in good health!

Two things ran through Molly's head in quick succession. Firstly, the male Indian probably traveled with the female, and Molly knew Indian attacks were not unheard of while traveling out west. Having an Indian or two on board would probably help matters, where that was concerned, maybe ease tensions between the caravan and any red men and women who would see fit to burn those wagons to the ground. Secondly, the guy (husbindian? Husbindian.) trying his best to sell his horse had absolutely no idea what he was doing, attempting to sell his horse with no story, and with all the panache of wet porridge.

She'd been that guy.

Eyes the color of the sharp sky overhead looked around for any one of her evening's customers, and she found her mark, walking hand over arm with an older man. The girl was in her mid-teens, blonde and freckled, and her father adored her, more so after the unfortunate passing of her beloved mother. Molly had gotten Elizabeth's life story the night before, while pulling for the young lady's future prospects. They were walking towards...... probably the general store, by the look of things. Molly watched the girl sneak a glance Goodbarrel-wards, and Molly took the opportunity to raise her hand and let out a gasping, warbling shriek.


Without hesitation, Molly left her wagon and horses behind, grateful she hadn't yet started the affair moving, stomping across the street as though possessed, giving the very confused, bearded father a light curtsy, and wrapping her arm around Elizabeth's equally confused elbow.

"Pardon me, good sir. I simply MUST speak to Miss Elizabeth in private. Womanly things, you understand."

With that, Molly began steering her teenaged friend towards the exotic man and his depressingly ordinary looking horse, while Elizabeth's father stood, somewhat befuddled but unwilling to follow and potentially overhear something womanly about his baby girl.

"Elizabeth, my dear Elizabeth, do you remember what I told you?"

"Y-yes? I.... I think?" Elizabeth replied, somewhat less certain.

"I told you a dark stranger would present an opportunity, one that if you grasped in time and held tight would lead you to a newfound sense of self and......" Molly lowered her voice. "Increase your appeal to find yourself a husband?"

Elizabeth's face simultaneously flushed and filled with the helpless desire of the young. "Yes! I mean, yes. O-of course. Wha-"

Molly gestured towards the Indian man in front of them, pointing from toe to tip. "Well, men only get a little darker than this, and certainly no stranger. And look what he's selling! Something that you must hold tight if you're to ride. And what do horses do? They lead you places! This horse will lead you to a newfound sense of self, for what could bring you to find your truest self than the freedom that comes with riding!" With a sidelong glance at the Indian, Molly pitched her voice lower and leaned in to the girl's ear. "You remember what I said about finding your beloved with..... pounding? It might have meant many things, I remind you, the pounding of rain, the pounding of a jolly tune, or of........ other things....... but LOOK. Look at it!"

Elizabeth's face went slack with understanding and her answer was a reverential whisper. "The pounding of hooves."

Molly nodded enthusiastically. "Precisely. Precisely, dear girl. You see the signs, you understand. I knew you had the gift. Unusual in one so young." The irony that Molly herself was only a handful of years removed from Elizabeth did not escape her. The father began making his way over to the two women, simultaneously curious and a little concerned.

Molly continued; "Whatever this dark stranger wants for this horse, you simply must purchase it. And make sure to let it drink from cups in your hands. TWO cups, to match your reading. Understand? That will help things along. I cannot linger, one cannot interfere with the future too much..... but when I saw you and behind you a dark stranger........ I simply had to intervene, you understand."

"Oh, thank you, thank you...... you have no idea what this means to me....." Elizabeth started, glancing at the Dark Stranger, then back at the mysterious woman who'd given her the best chance of finding herself a good man before she became an old maid.

Molly gave the teenager a bow of her head, the very picture of humility, a mere servant to greater forces. "When the fates call, I answer. When the fates shout..... I-I must act."

Goodbarrel looked at the horse-seller as Elizabeth's father joined them and Molly spoke to the seller in firm, clear tones; "I shall leave these two in your gentle care, Dark Stranger. Thank you for your part in helping Miss Elizabeth in her endeavors. Mr. Levine, Miss Levine...... I bid you good day."

And with that, Molly walked away..... but not before giving the Indian a sly, demure wink that might easily be explained as a speck of dust, interfering with one's sight.

Well, THAT was Molly's good deed for the day, and if Elizabeth DID learn to ride with enthusiasm, she'd gain some confidence and find herself a husband in no time. Goodbarrel cooed at her horses and after folding up the stairs into her wagon, started leading her home towards the gathered cluster of wagons. Hers stood out, made of wood and definitely not made to haul cargo, painted a moody burgundy and trimmed in yellow and green, a chimney poking out the roof indicating a living space as much as a method of travel...... but hey.

One couldn't expect to make a living by blending in.
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Camille Mcreery​

April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri​

Camille adjusted her hat, casting her face in shadows. Worrying a loose thread on the poncho she has draped over her, she takes a look around trying to find anyone a part of “The Miller Group.”

She isn’t sure what or who she’s looking for, only hearing about the group through the gossip she caught at the saloon. Camille thinks there was some poster advertising the journey, but she would rather trust word of mouth than words on paper.

And she had heard a lot about this trip and the people running it. But, it was her best bet for getting out west. After all the trip advertised a new start, and no matter what the gossip she caught the conversations of had said, Camille believed this could truly be a new start for her. She needed it to be, after all, what else did she have left?

There was no circus. No home to go back to. No family. No one who would welcome her with open arms. Nothing. Not anymore, not after the choices she made, not after what she's done.

She knew the journey itself probably wouldn’t wear on her as much as others, used to traveling with the circus, and since she was a pretty damn good shot she can count herself somewhat useful. And she would do anything to survive this trip, she needed to. She'd make it out west and fix everything. Even if it cost her own life and soul. All she knew was that she had to get back what she lost, she had to get back her wi-

Camille felt the thread she had been messing with snap, letting out a quiet curse she shook herself from her thoughts and focused on finding The Miller Group. She caught sight of a man talking to an unimpressed-looking woman and figured it would be her best bet at asking where to find the group.

Before she could get too close she heard a shout, it made her quickly turn only to see a woman acting as though possessed before she grabbed another slightly younger woman and began conversing. Curious as to where that woman’s gimmick was leading she watched the conversion, and even if she couldn’t hear them she did watch as she was pointed over to some horses. Camille figured she was just trying to help sell off her wares and grabbed whatever unsuspecting and gullible soul she could find.

She turned from the two, she's already seen enough fireball and flea bag shows in her lifetime. There was no reason to continue to watch the poor woman be scammed. Camille noticed that the man who had been talking to the unimpressed woman was gone. Making her way over she began talking with a monotone drawl, “Would ya happen to know where I could find that Miller Group? Me and a… friend were hoping they had some more room to take us.”


Soo Hyun-WooApril 28th, 1848, Independence, Missouri

Hyun-Woo woke up that morning at dawn, a habit of his no matter how late he had stayed up the night before, or what (or who) he had been doing. Just because he was conscious at that hour though, did not mean that the man was at his best. Far from it usually - as Mr. Soo also had a habit of over indulging at the saloon once his work for the day was done. It was nothing that a bit of coffee and few splashes of water to his face couldn't sort out though. Usually.

But that morning, as Hyun-Woo awoke, he was pleasantly surprised to realize he was not hung over at all, rather, he was still drunk. That had become obvious to him a few moments after he looked over to the two naked men still fast asleep next to him in bed.

'Twins?' He thought to himself, with a grin on his face, as he reached out to pet the brown locks of the one closest to him. What a shame he did not recall anything of the night before, but good on himself, that must have been a lot of fun while it lasted. It was only when his hand went through the man's body and onto the pillow that he realized there was in fact not only the illusion of two men in his bed, but the illusion of two of everything in the small room.

"Oh dear..." he mumbled, now reaching out to the second man, or rather, the singular man - just to confirm that there was indeed a man in his bed at all. When his hand made contact with the greasy curls of the cowboy, he once again spoke out loud. "How disappointing..."

Seeing that his touch did nothing but to cause the man to grunt softly in his drunken slumber, Hyun's eyebrow raised slightly and then he turned his head and began to look around the room in an attempt to piece together exactly where he was and how he had ended up there. There were vague memories of standing on the bar in a saloon, igniting mouthfuls of whiskey and spitting flames over the heads of the drunken crowd that had gathered. By the ache in his throat, he had clearly done some sword swallowing the night before as well. Well.. swallowing of some nature at least, but without forcibly rolling the cowboy over to check, he went with the explanation that it had been one of his swords considering the depth of the rawness he felt in his throat. If he were wrong, then this sleeping man really ought to be a part of a freak show himself. Curiosity almost did compel him to turn him over, but that would risk waking him up, and a thoughtful and considerate lover like Hyun would never do that.

Not before he'd gone through his wallet at least.

And that is precisely what Hyun-Woo proceeded to do as he rose to his feet and stumbled over to the mess of clothing on the floor. There wasn't much in the pockets of the other man's trousers, but that did not prevent him taking it and putting into his own pockets as he dressed himself. Though his own shirt and trousers were of the Western style, Hyun did wrap himself in a white durumagi he had made himself - enjoying the attention that his country's traditional clothing brought to him while traveling through other parts of the world. Try as he might, he could not locate his own shoes, so he took the other's boots as well. They were a bit loose, but later, once he had safely put some distance between himself and this mysterious sleeping man, he would put on a second pair of socks and all would be right in the world once again.

Grabbing his bag and adjusting the hang of his hwando at his hip, Hyun double checked as best he could with double vision, to ensure he had all of his things and wasn't leaving behind anything else he wanted from the other man's things. Satisfied he had found all of his possessions asides from his own shoes, the Korean man quietly opened the door and slipped out of the room. There, in the hallway by the door were Hyun's own shoes, and after a brief moment of considering leaving them behind for the still sleeping man, Hyun picked them up as well and made his way down the stairs and out onto the porch in front of the building. One could never have too many shoes, after all.

The pinkish color of the early morning light was pleasant enough, but it was confusing to see so many people out and about already. After a brief moment of of searching his memory again, he was finally able to recall that today was the start of the journey to California that Camille had be so dead set on making. He'd always liked the woman, though to be fair at first he did think she was a man - a rather handsome one, at that - which certainly did go a long way in making a positive impression on the sword swallower. Even after learning the secret of her and her wife though, Hyun still felt an affection to her and from affection came his loyalty. After the tragedy when other, less open minded men, discovered the pair's secret, and then Camille being forced from the circus for taking well deserved vengeance, Hyun had felt his attachment and sense of duty to her grow even stronger. When she spoke of the journey to Salvation, with nothing else to do with himself, he promised to join her. Besides, she was tough and clearly good with her guns, and Hyun liked a strong and fierce woman that might some day offer him some protection. Swords were his thing - not guns. And as the saying went, it was ill advised to bring a sword to a gun fight.. or something like that.

With an unlit cigarette between his lips, he stepped down onto the road and smiled and nodded his head to the various people gathering around their wagons in the line that had formed for the journey west. Some people ignored his pleasantries, which he was used to. Others, who he assumed had witnessed some of his impromptu performance the night before did offer a friendly nod in return, and still others stared at him as if he were some sort of freak. Perhaps they'd seen him on top of the bar the night before as well. He didn't much care what people thought of him though, as long as his belly was full, his pockets jingled with coin, and there was no sheriff on his trail.

It was not long before he saw Camille and her trademark poncho further down the line, and after pausing only to light his cigarette, he began making his way - in a bit of a zig zag pattern, towards his friend. Along his way he saw a very tiny little thing indeed, a Chinese girl - he assumed - who looked a bit lost. As he passed her, he reached out and squeezed her shoulder, then turned back with a charming smile and a wink.

A strange mix of a Korean and an upper class British accent flavored his words - yet another way he was sure to grab the attention of those he interacted with. He enjoyed leaving people a bit confused after even such brief encounters. As a performer, he followed the rule of always leaving others wanting more. Or something like that.

"Ni hao, darling." He cooed to her. "What a wonderful day to be alive, isn't it my little doe?"

He was a touchy man, that much was for certain, as well as a wildly inappropriate flirt. And though his preferences were with his fellow men, he did not spare women from his displays of physical and verbal affections either. But he did not linger around long enough to hear if if the Chinese girl had said anything regarding the unprompted and perhaps unwanted attention, as he was a man on a mission that morning.

After sauntering his way down the road to reach his friend, Hyun slung an arm over the much taller woman's shoulder and addressed her first, completely interrupting whatever it was she was saying to the white woman, his cigarette burning between his lips and his boots still hanging from the loose fingers of his other hand. "Good morning, my love. You don't happen to have any recollection of how the night went, did you? Was I shoving swords down my throat again?"

With a burst of laughter, he turned his attention to the woman on the wagon and bowed his head to her. "And you my dear, our fearless leader? Shepherding the tired, the hopeless, and the weary to the promised land? Where do I sign up?"

With what he intended to be a charming grin, the handsome, but clearly intoxicated man - as he reeked of whiskey -made a final comment before allowing the others around him a chance to speak.

"Who doesn't need a bit of Salvation in their lives the days, no?"

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Gordon BooneApril 28th, 1848, Independence, Missouri

The little flame roared to life in front of Boone as he lit the end of his cigarette, one hand cupped around the end to make sure no stray gust of wind blew it out. It smelled like a mix of tobacco and something else, something a little skunky, and was altogether an unpleasant smell if one stood too close. Which was perfect for Boone. He didn’t want anyone standing too close.

He took a long drag off the cigarette and held his breath a moment before letting the smoke curl out from between his thin chapped lips, averting his eyes from the glowing red end of it. He sniffed, then coughed, then spat into the dirt at his side. His frown never faded, but the scar along the right side of his face gave him a permanent little sneer thanks to the way the corner of his upper lip got tugged up after it healed. It paired nicely with the way his right eye was always a bit more squinty than the left, scar tissue making his face asymmetrical and unfriendly. This was also just fine and didn’t bother Boone one bit. He didn’t aim to be a friendly type of guy to begin with.

As he greedily inhaled down the length of his short cigarette, Boone leaned against the side of the tree, watching the scene in front of him. Studying the people, really. What they wore, how they moved, how they spoke to one another, the expressions on their faces, what they carried, what they tossed into wagons, and what they clutched closely. Sometimes things caught his eye, and his attention lingered. The curve of a neck, the way veins bulge when clenching a fist or flexing arms, the upturn of lips into a polite but forced smile, the nervous sweat upon a brow, the wide-eyed look of excitement, little touches and little frowns … all little details to be noted and filed away for savoring later.

Most people hired to guard a wagon would have been cursing that mist that rolled in off the river and invaded the staging area, roiling high like steam from a boiling pot and spreading every which direction. In some places, it was thick enough and tall enough to hide a man. The rising sun of dawn played tricks on the mist too - forming shadows that weren’t really there. Boone was thoroughly enjoying the mist, as it kept him out of sight far more than it kept others out of his. Leaning against this old oak, Boone seemed like just a dark spot on the bark. Part of the tree itself. Nobody paid him any attention, nobody came up to him to try and make conversation or sell him things, nobody even looked at him. But Boone? Boone was looking at everyone else.

Just the way he liked it.

The guy who hired him - James Miller - seemed a little over-eager and fresh faced to be going west all on his own. Frankly, his wife seemed to be the more shrewd and intelligent one of the pair… which is why he only dealt with James directly when he negotiated his terms. It worked out in his favor, in the end.

It was probably a damn good thing, for Miller’s sake, that he got hired on. He watched those who approached, or returned with or without Miller and wandered up to their wagon party like they belonged, and Boone was… less than impressed. A lot of folks who didn’t look like they could fight, and a lot of women. Even a goddamn priest of some kind, and he looked jumpy as a jackrabbit. Only one out of the lot that he knew of seemed capable of handling themselves in a dangerous situation. With Boone, that made two.

Those weren’t great odds.

Little more than an occasional glowing red ember in the mist, Boone finally finished his cigarette and dropped it into the grass-turned-muddy-dirt. He took his time grinding it against his boot, making sure that fire was damn well good and put out. Without that little flame, the mist enveloped him again, and momentarily, Boone faded from existence.

It wasn’t until he stepped up to Miller’s wagon and stood at Laura’s side, adjusting the hat on his head, did Boone clear his throat and speak up.

“Don’t crowd the lady, y’ingrates.” Boone tucked the thumb of one hand around his belt, motioning for folks to back off with the other. It was obviously a mistake for James to leave his wife standing here unattended, because now a whole crowd was forming, looking for a way west. Frankly, he didn’t trust the lady to make rational decisions instead of being swayed by charms.

“Names, skills, and supplies. Let’er know how yer useful and how y’plan on earnin’ yer keep on the trail. No free rides.” Boone stared down those gathered - Hosea, Washington, Camille, and Hyun - giving them all a critical eye with that scarred squint of his.



Charity Hawthorne
April 28th, 1848, Independence, Missouri
The first step to taking a daguerreotype is always the most tedious one.

Rotten stone. Powdered rouge. Lampblack. A copper sheet plated in a thin layer of silver is hand-polished to mirror finish. A dash of fuming iodine crystals sensitize the surface of the plate, which is then swiftly loaded into an odd wooden box with a lens on the end. The shutter snaps open; a family poses, a politician puffs out his chest, a mother coos at her baby from just out of frame. It clicks shut like the slamming of a door for the last time.

Charity had become accustomed to the routine. It paid enough to stay adequately fed, and it didn't require her to ever stay in one place for more than a couple days. Every photo taken was a snapshot of someone's whole life, a singular, beautiful moment distilled and captured into something tangible, something you could hold onto and protect. The good times were fleeting, but a photo is forever. She tried, fruitlessly, not to think about how long it had been since she'd had a moment that felt worth capturing.

An alcohol lamp is lit. A small vial of silvery liquid metal is poured into an iron box and heated with the flame, and a primordial photograph is immersed in poison fumes. She cursed herself, how stupid could she be? How utterly, moronically foolish had she been? She had been needlessly dousing herself for years in brain-killing fog without ever realizing she could develop the photos with a god damn piece of red glass and sunlight because she was too fucking incompetent to read the literature, you don't even NEED to use mercury, why the hell does no one use the damn Becquerel process? This must be a curse from God himself for-

She paused. She'd been holding the still-developing photo in her hand with such white-knuckle intensity that it had cracked the delicate red glass, a singular hair-thin ray of unfiltered sunlight beaming onto the now-blank surface of the image like a tendril of poison, its broken frame gently dripping blood. Sheepishly, she turned back to the mother whose baby's face she'd just accidentally erased.

"Ah, ma'am I sincerely apologize, I think we may need to take another image." The words flowed from her mouth like molasses through a pinhole.

"Oh, what?! Are you joking me? We just spent ten minutes keeping him still long enough to get one!"

"Right, and I am truly sorry for that, but there's just been an issue with the development an-"

"I am not paying for a second photo miss, just do it right this time." The woman begrudgingly took her baby back out of his pram and set him back on the posing stool.

Lampblack. Iodine. Box. Shutter. She moved in a way that could only come from experience, each motion serving a purpose, no movements wasted. The plate was covered with red glass and set in the fog-addled sun to develop for a couple hours, and the woman left to take her baby on a walk. Charity felt a slight twinge of sadness as she watched them leave, some tiny wilting feeling of loss at the course her life had taken, an odd sense that at some point in her past she'd taken a right turn when she would've been happier going left.

She sighed, and reached into her bag for the note she'd been hanging on to for longer than she'd prefer to admit.
"HEADING WEST?", the advertisement beamed, "FIND SALVATION!"
She had adamantly refused to admit to herself that she was really considering going, but despite that fact she still found herself gradually wandering closer and closer to the little Missouri town that the expedition was supposed to set off from ever since she first came across the ad. And today, taking photos for a woman who lived a couple blocks from Independence's town square, she couldn't really keep fooling herself any longer. It wasn't like she had any particular connection to the east coast. She grew up in London, and the only memories she'd really made in America were far from pleasant. America was the place where her mother died, the place she nearly starved to death, the place-

The town clock croaked out a few halfhearted tolls in the distance, begrudgingly announcing to the world that it was ten o'clock. Three and a half hours had passed, and the photo was finally ready to finish. It somewhat dawned on Charity why so many daguerreotypists were willing to risk the mercury poisoning, this fog was absolutely miserable for photography. She wearily unsheathed the plate from the crimson glass, baptizing it in a pool of chemical genesis. Hypo-sulfate. Sodium sulfite. The face of the baby entered the world. Nitric acid. Auric chloride. A rich protective sheen formed, and with one final inspection she entombed it forever in an airtight glass case. This was her ritual, her sacred duty, protecting for others the moments they were doomed to one day lose. Why was she so hesitant to leave? Sure, the journey would be dangerous, but anything had to be better than this endless purgatory of wandering. She needed somewhere to set down roots. She needed somewhere she could plant the little tropical seedling she kept in its own glass tomb in her bag, the only thing she had left to remember her father by.

She left the finished photo propped up on the woman's kitchen table and turned to leave without saying goodbye. Charity wasn't big on conversation, the chronic effects of mercury poisoning had made her mind too nervous of others to be able to handle more than a few minutes of interaction. She took one last hesitant look at the photo as she walked away, and made up her mind. This place had nowhere for her. California might. She made her way onto the street listed in the advert and scanned the crowd for wherever this "Mr. Miller" might be.

And also somewhere to buy a wagon. Shit, she might not have thought this through well enough.
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Laura MillerApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Laura hadn’t honestly expected anyone to show up this early; they had planned to depart at noon to allow everyone enough time to stock up their wagons and for the morning mist to dissipate. That was precisely why she had sent James off on his own now, she hadn’t expected to need his people skills for another hour at least. She gave a strained smile as a particularly exuberant stranger called out to her.

“Ma’am, would you perhaps be on with the Miller Mercantile party?”

She recognized the advertisement despite the distance and fog, which made her smile grow all the more forced as the godly man continued. She only half listened, noting his name alongside his appearance. He wasn’t particularly well built, his tidy clothes implied he wasn’t a laborer, “man of God” implied no practical knowledge, and the massive trunk he was lugging around implied that he didn’t have so much as a mule.

He wasn’t exactly her first choice, but he was mostly certainly James’. With her luck, he’d likely been promised a place on the trip already.

“That I am, Mr Miller is running some errands so I’ll handle your paperwork.” She gave him a polite nod before turning towards the wagon to grab a copy of the contract. By the time she’d found it, her singular pioneer had become three. The first to address her was a kind of person she had never seen before that she studied with the same scrutiny she’d given the preacher moments prior. Polite with a rich accent, likely another businessman, nothing physically impressive (save his appearance) but significantly more likely to know something useful, thank God. She offered him a polite nod.

“Laura Miller, it’s a pleasure.” she smiled, hoping she wasn’t too short with him as she turned to the third figure. She wasn’t quite able to hide her surprise to see a woman after her own heart, cold, calculating, and obviously able to handle herself. Her smile became a little more genuine.

“You’re in the right place, I’m Mrs. Miller, I’m certain we have space for a lady of your-”

She paused as the smell of alcohol hit her, her face twisting in annoyance as she anticipated the source of the smell. Somehow, the sight of a visibly drunk individual the same ethnicity as Mr. Washington slung his arm around the woman was a mild relief and irritant at the same moment. The woman really was after her own heart, apparently dragging around an absolutely useless man with her. She forced her face back into a smile as she looked between the three newcomers.

“Your brother?” She asked as she faced Washington. She turned back towards the woman and her very talkative drunk husband before continuing. “I hope you’re aware that public drunken-ness won’t be tolerated on the trail while we’re moving. We wouldn’t want him falling under a wagon wheel.”. Despite her tone implying a joke, she didn’t laugh, maintaining the same polite smile.

“I’ll just need a minute with each of you to determine if-”

“Don’t crowd the lady, y’ingrates”

Her face twisted back into the same irritated expression she had before seeing the first drunk as a bull of a man cut her off. She grit her teeth as he snarled at the newcomers, balling her fists in the fabric of her dress as he continued. By the time he was done, she had the expression of a tea kettle about to blow.

“While I appreciate your help, I am more than capable of handling this.” she insisted, her voice dripping with venom as she shot a glare like hot iron towards him. Boone was by far the worst mistake her husband had ever made. She’d met snakes with kinder eyes and rabid dogs with less foul mouths, in fact, she would have preferred James came home with either of the former as opposed to the stinking cowboy. He had no damn right to insert himself into the conversation, much less to try and steal her role. With any luck, he’d be dead to some snake bite or Indian within the month. She took a deep breath, then sighed, releasing the tension in her body.

“Mr. Washington, I’ll speak with you first.” She decided more or less at random. She gestured for him to follow her behind the wagon for a lick of privacy.

Washington ZhaoApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri

Washington had first stood perfectly still with his hands folded in front of him as the others had approached and asked their questions. It was important to him that he not appear rude or otherwise give off a poor impression, and so despite his desire to blend into the fog and turn invisible, he had given each of the newcomers a polite nod of his head in acknowledgement behind an otherwise blank expression.

It had become increasingly difficult to hide his emotions though, as each new person approaching the Miller's wagon intimidated him more and more. Subtle signs of his growing nervousness might have been noticed by anyone who had been particularly focused on the young man - the way that he tugged at the cuffs of his shirt, the frequent swallows, the fleeting eye contact before dropping his eyes back to the ground. Washington did not expect anyone would be watching him closely enough to notice though - he had learned from a young age that after the initial stares he received from people, and perhaps a question or two regarding his name, their interest and curiosity around him quickly faded.

Not only was he accustomed to the pattern - he was grateful for it as well.

Perhaps that was why he felt surprised that it was his name that Mrs. Miller called first to come to meet with her. Apart from the man who had been there prior to his own arrival at the wagon - a man who seemed rather elegant in some ways - the others were clearly people who were better equipped for the journey ahead. By appearances and manners of speaking alone, they seemed tougher, stronger, and far more experienced in life. He could not help but to feel a bit as if he were a mere child, standing to the side quietly, as the adults spoke. Perhaps he felt as such, because that was exactly what he was.

When beckoned to follow Mrs. Miller behind the wagon, Wash's cheeks flushed red, and he glanced back at the first man almost apologetically before following her to the other side of the vehicle. In his mind, where things followed logic and order, it felt improper that he should be spoken to first, therefore, he could only assume his name had been called so that she might dismiss him immediately. At least she was kind enough to do so in private.

In all truth, the woman intimidated him more than the last man, with the scarred face, had. Washington had his run-in with outlaws - which he perhaps had too easily assumed that man was, but he had spent the majority of his life around people who gave off the aura of power and authority like she did. A quiet power, but a power none the less.

The wives of the wealthy industrialists and bankers and politicians back in New York may not have sat at the head of the companies or passed laws and made decisions that would shape the future of New York City as their husbands had, but when it came to society and who was accepted within it and who was to be cast aside like refuse... those were the decisions of women.

Despite what he was expecting from their private meeting behind the wagon, Wash was grateful to be pulled away from the questions asked by the scarred man, anticipating that his own answers would not stand up to those of the others. The tall woman who had approached the wagon so confidently also intimated him, as did the drunken man who threw himself against her body. Washington did not find that behavior proper at all, and it made him uncomfortable to be witness to it.

Only after they had moved to a more private place to speak did Washington answer her prior question regarding his relation with the other -he assumed - Chinese man. "No, Ma'am." Washington replied quietly. "I have never met him before."

"I am my parent's only child, and they live in New York - where I was born. I have no family here."
He further explained, then fell silent once more, awaiting her dismissal of him from the traveling party as he watched her face carefully.


Chevelle HazardApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
It had been a few months since they left Rhode Island. While it was a relief to no longer feel the burn of accusatory stares upon her back whenever it was turned, her heart ached from missing... home.

The only home she and Tallulah had ever known.

Things were awkward between them for a while after that day -- the day they left it all behind. She was only eighteen, and she had been forced to part with who she thought would be the love of her life.

Chevelle knew better of course, because years ago, she had been her.

Years ago, Sumner Moody had been her future.

Her one true love.

There was an urge to laugh, but the fear she felt in the end made it so hard to be amused. It was messy, the way it all came to an end, but she didn't regret.

And if given the chance?

She would do it again.

Thankfully, she had come a long way since those lovestruck teenage years. There had been steps forward followed by several steps back, but now it felt like she was finally on the right path again.

Or... a path.

The sign had nearly jumped off that worm piece of paper, and it held promise for the life she hoped for them when they left the northeast. Finally, a sign from the spirit that she had done the right thing, and not simply uprooted what was left of the Hazard family due to her on selfish need to leave ghosts in the past. She had returned to the room they'd been renting and dropped the flyer in front of Tallulah, enthralled within the book she was currently devouring. It was first met with a long and confused glare, until she properly read the ad properly.

Rumors of the west could be downright mythical, but that ominous unknown was just what the Hazard sisters needed to lift their fading spirits. Chevelle had found a job at a bar as they figured out just where to lay down roots, and just when she'd gotten into one final explosive argument with her perverted boss did that flyer came fluttering down the road like a golden tumbleweed.

It was a sign.

It had to be.

To say that Chevelle was out of her depth would be an understatement. Since the day her mother passed she'd been overburned with too many responsibilities on her plate, but she never did complain. She harbored it deep inside until she cried alone, and returned to face it all with her eyes dried of all those exhausted tears. Now, all she hoped for was a place were she may lay down some of the weight on the verge of breaking her back, and finally breathe.

This was it.

It had to be.

"A contract?"

"A contract," Chevelle affirmed as she readied one of their horses. They both packed rather light, and had no requirment for something as overdone as a wagon to carry their belongings. Materials would come and go, and new ones could be acquired as quickly as they cold be destroyed. The lack of baggage gave the impression that they were perhaps simple, but Chevelle could protect herself better than most would expect, and was well armed to ensure that she could do so.

"White men and their contracts," Tallulah grumbled under her breath. She was still apprehensive about the whole thing, and her older sister couldn't really blame her. While she was certainly filled with excitement, and perhaps some small flicker of hope, she knew that the unknown often brought danger along with it.

"Tallu," Chevelle sighed without looking at her sister. There was still a resentment harbored in her for what happened to their father, and again, she could not blame her -- she would not blame her. Still, she refused to hold all 'white men' to the same standard. She knew there was good and bad in them just like anyone else, regardless of heritage. Admittedly, it was hard to hold out that belief sometimes. Given their crimes against Natives and their ever growing grasp at all that was once theirs...

She would need to leave that resentment behind to.

"Hungry?" She asked after a moment, her deep honeyed gaze landing on her sister and lingering as she waited for an answer. There was a reluctance on Tallulah's expression, but she eventually nodded almost reluctantly. "Stay here... I'll go find us somethin'," Chevelle offered a glance to a woman who sat nearby operating a stall, a silent communication to watch over her sister while she was gone. They had become something like friends since her arrival, but they were still closer to acquaintances; given that was all the Narragansett native really allowed herself to have anymore.

Before walking away, she grabbed her hat from Tallulah's head, and placed it back on her own. The brim was upturned and worn, and the band had three colorful feathers sticking upward from its clasp. It did a good job of concealing her eyes, leaving the onlooker to see only full lips and long sable hair as she walked by. Her leather jacket was handmade, with a fringe of hide hung from its sleeves. Those tassels swaying in the breeze as on hand raised to absentmindedly brush under her nose, as the crunch of her boots played a song in the dirt beneath her. She held a quite confidence that lived underneath an air of mystery that could entice as well as it could repel, and although there was a resting frown on her mouth, there was something in her eyes - left to glow as a streak of sunlight slipped under the brim of her hat as she looked upward - that held a promise of fire.

Of something locked away without a key to open its cage.

Without much of a look in the direction of anyone, Chevelle entered in inn, hoping to find something to feed Tallulah to quiet her grumpy mood.


Molly GoodbarrelApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri

Molly Goodbarrel watched as a flamboyant man with hair as black as her own wobbled from one side of the street to the other, cigarette dangling from his lips and sword by his side (sword? Who in the world used swords?). He was obviously from the Far East, though as Molly's gaze took in the gradually growing crowd, she realized he was hardly the only one. In fact, a sizable portion of those gathered could be considered oddities in polite society. There was a surly looking fellow whose scars and general manner made him look dangerous, attempting crowd control with limited success; an overly tan woman in pants (how scandalous) and a poncho; three Asians; and at least one Indian, probably more like two, assuming Husbindian followed his wife here. The traditionally socially-respectable types included a baffled looking white man, the Miller pair (or at least the wife), and.... her.

Did..... did she count as one of the most (white) respectable, well-dressed people of the bunch? Molly had a button down shirt, suspenders, pants, wide hat, and boots among her things, but she wore them only as needed and never amongst people she'd need to blend among, later. Women who openly dressed in the male fashion weren't unheard of, but they were certainly frowned upon, and anyone who wasn't white (including Irish, Italian, or Jew) was sneered upon to varying degrees. Normally, her unique wagon and unmarried status would have raised a few brows, but amongst this crowd? If anything, she would lend them an air of respectability.

What delectable irony. Molly loved irony.

A wide, easy smile graced Molly's lips and stayed there, and she made it a point to watch watch the unfolding interactions. The scarred man barked out orders while his wife looked about as thrilled as one might expect, being married to that. He looked like he sucked on quinine for kicks. For her sake, Molly hoped he made up for attitude with enthusiasm in other places....... at least until she went over their interaction in more detail.

Let’er know how yer useful and how y’plan on earnin’ yer keep on the trail.

Let her know.

Did a man who carried himself like a disgruntled goose defer to his wife? In public, more specifically? Not likely. The Lady's response only confirmed matters. She wasn't his wife, but he did feel as though running crowd interference was not only his place but his responsibility. He was not having a good time. That face did not say 'I am enjoying myself'. That face looked like it held all the personal joy of a damp rag. Ergo, it was likely the man was trying to wrangle the gathering crowd because he felt he needed to do so.

Bodyguard, maybe? Family? The help?

The Lady selected one of the Far Easterners to converse with, first. He was well-dressed and well groomed, and he looked about as jittery as a virgin girl on her wedding night, which was to say....... very. Lady Boss took Nerves behind the nearest wagon for an interview, leaving the rest of the hopeful to their own devices. More unusual still, Nerves wasn't related to Drunk Swordsman. Indians were uncommon in town but not rare, while people of an Oriental persuasion were far rarer. Having three in one place without relation or familiarity was...... so strange as to be nigh on mythical.

It was unusual. Unique. Molly loved anything unusual.

Under duress, Miss Goodbarrel would admit that she did, occasionally, put stock in the cards she pulled. She'd heard too many strange tales, read too many strange stories, and had too many strange experiences with the Tarot to be a complete skeptic. If there were such things as signs, this was unquestionably a good one. This crowd was mostly comprised of misfits and outsiders, and could there be a more wonderful thing? A more perfect group with which to travel?

Surely not.

Molly slung a hand on her hip, her posture relaxed, and looked at both Poncho and Sword Wielder up and down, a genuine interest threading through her words as she spoke. "You don't see swords much, these days.... or women bold enough to wear what they please, either. You look like an interesting pair. If we all succeed in getting on this train, I hope you'll excuse a bit of good natured curiosity from my general direction. I like interesting. There's not enough of it in the world, I should think. At least, not when it comes to people."

With that non-introduction out of the way, Molly decided to answer Quinine Sucker's question honestly albeit somewhat cheekily; "Miss Molly Goodbarrel, entrepreneurship with a smidge of medicine, and I have enough supply to take care of my needs well enough. Any more detail on what I carry wouldn't be any of your business, Sir. That is, unless you're the one to decide who goes and who stays? If you are, I'd be happy to go into considerably more detail, Mister......."

Anything that wasn't the word 'Miller' meant this guy wasn't one of the ones in charge.


Nukchinto Taloa & Wakeli Luaoka
April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Hearing a woman shriek in public was never a good sign. Taloa tensed up, visually seeking out the source of the sound until he spotted her - a pale woman with striking black hair in a blue dress. She looked okay - not ill, not wounded, nobody near enough to have threatened or harmed her, what could possibly be the matter? He watched on as the woman hurried over to a younger girl and the two conversed in hurried whispers.

A misbehaving younger sister, or ward? It was hard to tell, but when the woman gestured towards him, he felt uneasy. They were just close enough for him to hear enough relevant snippets of the word horse and to see that sidelong glance she gave him. He put two and two together. The woman was urging the girl to buy his horse.

Why? He had no idea. Did he care why? Nope, not one bit. And now suddenly this girl and her father were deposited in front of him, with expectant and hesitant looks on their faces, respectively, and the dark-haired woman was disappearing.

Not before giving him a wink. Oh, it was never good to be winked at by a white woman, not like that.

Dark Stranger? This was utterly ridiculous and he wanted to shout at this charlatan for putting him into this position… but he couldn’t deny the fact that she’d helped him out. He caught on immediately to what he was being urged to do. He hated it. He loathed it. But it was a role he knew well how to play: the dark and mysterious Indian.


Taloa reached up and patted the horse’s side gently as he peered down at the girl, paying her father no attention yet. He stood tall, back ramrod-straight, putting on his brave stoic face.

“Hmm…. spirits brought you here, yes? That woman, she called it fate. Maybe she’s right, maybe she’s wrong, but if you ask me… spirits.” He nodded his head at his own statement, nudging the horse gently to turn its head towards the girl. The horse - a pretty light-colored creature in good health with a clean tangle-free mane - snorted gently at the girl.

“This horse’s name is Pearl. She used to belong to a woman, barely a few years older than you, who traveled all the way from Virginia in search of happiness. She searched everywhere - stores of all kinds, taverns, churches, schools, though she dared not explore the less reputable places.” Taloa lowered his voice in a stage whisper, so that the father could still hear, but he sounded like he was giving some sage fancy wisdom to the girl.

“It would be unbecoming and unsafe of a young unmarried woman to enter those places, you see.” He waited for the girl to nod, wide-eyed and enraptured by his story, before continuing.

“She had nearly given up - where would she find happiness, if she’d looked in all these places and traveled so far with her horse? Until one day - she found it! Or rather, she found him! She stopped at a park to take her lunch, and there he was - handsome, well-respected, dressed impeccably, clearly able to support himself and his household… and he had a stubborn, stubborn horse. The stallion had decided it had enough of trotting around town and had simply stopped right there, beneath a tree, and refused to budge. The man, being no expert at horses, was begging his creature to move - and was being ignored.” Taloa smiled at the girl and father both, trying to radiate calm and the assurance he wasn’t going to do anything odd or untowards.

“The woman, spotting his distress, came over and helped cheer the stallion up into moving. She also discovered what was making the horse so stubborn - the stallion wasn’t tired, lazy, or belligerent. The horse was merely itchy, and was scratching itself against the bark of the tree.” He chuckled, and the girl giggled at the silliness of the story.

“The two became close - the man respected her knowledge and care for not just horses, but all creatures, and the woman loved his patience and commitment to hard work. They were married not more than two years ago. She sold her horse eventually, knowing she would stay on his farm and be busy raising their children, with the hopes that someday caring for another living creature would put someone else on the right path. My younger sister bought this horse from her, and now she is married also. My other sister and I” - Taloa motioned to Lua, who was idly keeping an eye on them - “we wish to head west first. It isn’t time for us to marry yet.”

Lua succeeded in not rolling her eyes, pretending to be busy adjusting her own horse’s saddle.

“So now we are here, hoping to sell Pearl to a good owner. You look like a good owner, are you not?” Part of that statement was directed at the father - he looked like the sort for whom reputation was important.

Sighing, the old man was already opening his wallet.


Seated in the passenger side of the farm cart, with Taloa in the driver’s seat steering the ox and two horses pulling their cart, Lua couldn’t stop laughing.

“I cannot believe you took that man for such a ride. You asked for twice what that horse was worth, and he paid it, without even blinking!” Lua wiped tears out of her eyes and shook her head. Taloa had kept a straight face while closer to the heart of town, but as he steered their cart towards where the Miller party was gathering, he allowed himself a broad smile.

“A good father will do anything for his daughter. I just gave them exactly what they needed, exactly when they needed it.” Taloa sounded a little smug, laughing as well as he pulled his cart up next to James and Laura Miller’s wagon.

“You spun them an oxshit tale, that’s what you gave them.” Lua climbed down off the cart when it was stopped. She stretched, moving to the front of their cart to give all the animals a good-job-pat. Her horse got an extra smooch on the cheek.

“I handled the shit hand I was given. I wouldn’t have done it if that lady hadn’t …. Ah damnit.” Taloa paused, half on and half off his cart, when he spotted the dark haired woman again. This time, she was part of a little crowd that had circled around poor Mrs. Miller. Lua leaned over to look past him, and laughed again.

“Is she joining us? Looks like you’re not done spinning oxshit tales! Oh, I can’t wait to hear the next one.” Lua continued to laugh, shaking her head. This was the best day ever.

Taloa facepalmed.


Juno BelroseApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
As Juno crossed the threshold into town, she hopped down from her noble steed who gave a mighty shake to displace any flies sitting on his shiny coat. She rubbed his neck with her fingertips, digging into his skin like a field-mate might with their teeth. He leaned his head forward, flipping up his top lip as he enjoyed the good scratch...

She flinched as she felt a firm but sloppy hand on her shoulder, squeezing at her flesh before slinking off like an alley cat into the night... but it wasn't night time, and he wasn't a cat, so he just looked a little silly in Juno's eyes. He was trying to look cool. Juno had seen many men trying to look cool, hoping to impress their friends in the tavern or the prostitutes looking for clientele there. They didn't seem to realize that it was their job to be impressed. Whenever they cheered after the man had puffed their chest and performed like a bird doing a mating dance, they were hoping for money, not affection. She imagined he did similar, parading his colourful plumage to whatever bird would watch.

She certainly hoped that man wouldn't be in her party, but she wasn't sure who she did want. Someone who knew what they were doing, who was fully prepared to hunt and scavenge and survive. Those were things Juno wasn't very good at... Foraging, sure, but hunting was much harder. Plants tended to stay still. She stood with Amigo, her hand wrapped loosely within his reins as she looked for someone who looked... adventurous. Well, there was the big group of people over yonder, crowding a lone woman. She was probably with a travelling party... but it was hard to get your voice heard when you didn't have one. However, venturing in the opposite direction from that group was a man. He'd probably just point her towards the rest of them, but it was easier to communicate with one person than ten. She jogged over towards him, one hand holding her hat on to avoid a gust of wind taking it from her, the other leading her trotting companion behind her.

She slowed to a walk as she approached him, tentatively raising a hand to get his attention with a non-threatening wave. She fumbled in her pocket for her note, quickly unfolding it and holding it out to him with an awkward smile. The waiting always felt awkward, the expectation of rejection looming overhead as she allowed him to read.

"My name is Juno Belrose and I am in search of a travelling party. I cannot speak, but I assure you that I am intelligent and particularly knowledgeable in biology. I work for a stables training mustangs, I can assure you I am fit and healthy, and I bring my own horse. I am experienced in animal husbandry and, if you offer me protection, I will care for your oxen and horses and identify edible plantlife. I have no destination, I only wish to leave Independence. If I am to join your party, I request that my presence be kept a secret to the people of this town. In return for your discretion, I will cause no trouble."

She watched the man anxiously. She half expected to be laughed out of town... A small, mute girl and her wild-caught pony were far from many people's ideal travel companions... but everything in her note was true. She could only hope he believed her... and that he could actually read.
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Charity HawthorneApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Tremors. Excessive shyness. Nervousness. Mercury poisoning has many symptoms, but these by far were the three Charity was feeling most intensely in this particular moment. The street was utterly bustling with people, and each one's gaze felt like a spotlight of pure burning fire against her skin. This was hell.

But she still needed a damn wagon.

Independence was bustling with plenty of folks with just the sort she needed, but Charity figured that most of them were here for the same reason she was and wouldn't part with it for anything less than a lot more than she had. She searched the crowd hastily, trying to ignore the fact that she felt like she was about to burst into flames. There. An older man, probably in his 50's, leading a decently sized cart pulled by two oxen. He was far too old and was hauling far too little to be making the trek across the continent, no; this man was a farmer. And farmers probably had more than one cart. It would work.

Quickly, Charity ducked into a dark corner and began hastily fiddling with the loose knot of hair under her hat, until a small roll of dollar bills slipped out and rolled onto the ground. Having spent the last three years as a wandering vagrant, Charity was no stranger to being robbed, and she preferred to adapt to the cruelty of the world over losing faith in other people. She had to. Her money was kept in seventeen different secret compartments and hidden pockets all throughout her getup, her long rifle was slung behind her back with a carefully constructed hitch that only she knew how to unslip, and her bag was rigged to fling pepper oil in the face of anyone who tried to open it incorrectly. It was the kind of setup that could only be created by a person who really, really did not want to use her gun. She snatched the little roll of bills out of the dirt.

The old man lazily loaded a barrel of oats into his cart, stopping suddenly as he noticed an exceptionally disheveled looking young woman marching towards him with a look on her face that could best be described as 'intense'.

"I'll give you $150 for the cart and the oxen, no questions asked." Her words were short, almost growled, as though each one was physically painful. He thought for a moment, before raising a finger with a smirk on his face, sensing a chance to haggle. He noticed the massively oversized rifle on her back and quietly lowered it again. He paused to think over his next move rather carefully.

"Hm. Fine." He begrudgingly handed her the reigns and took the bills. She quickly turned and started to lead the oxen down the road.

"But I have to warn ya miss, if you're only buying supplies now you're gonna die out there. The trail ain't kind to hesitation."
Charity knew he was probably right.

The prices in Independence were not exactly consumer friendly. But still, seeing no choice she gritted her teeth and paid, cursing herself for not thinking further ahead. Her stash of supplies was certainly modest to put it politely, but it wasn't like she had many belongings in the first place. The only thing in the world that meant much of anything to her was her seedling. The town clock croaked out another round of tolls, this one somehow even less enthusiastic than the last. Shit, she was almost out of time. She grabbed one more bag of flour, haphazardly shoving a handful of coins in the shopkeeper's hands. Where the hell is Miller?

And then she stopped. About twenty metres down the road amongst a small crowd of odd looking folk were three people of an ethnicity she had never seen before. Or rather, she had, but only in the drawings from her father's letters, the sketches he had made of the men from the Great Qing that he'd befriended before the war, before...

She put it out of her mind. She still had enough manners to know it was rude to stare at strangers, and this particular train of thoughts and memories was the absolute last thing she needed right now. One of the three was in the midst of a conversation, another appeared to be doing his best impression of a dandelion swaying in the wind, and the third was in the midst of nervously showing the group some kind of letter. The small gaggle of people and wagons they stood in had to be what she was looking for. She scanned the crowd trying to guess at who among them was Mr. Miller. They were going to a town called Salvation, perhaps the nervous priestly looking fellow on the edge of the group? She parked her cart and walked up to him, doing her very best impression of a human being.

"Um, hello sir, is this the Miller Mercantile party?"

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Hosea Sinclair
April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Hosea immediately brightened up and shed a bit of his anxieties when the woman confirmed he had, in fact, found the right wagon group - and not only that, she’d handle the paperwork. Of course there was paperwork, he wasn’t surprised. All things worth doing came with paperwork - records to be kept, contracts to be signed, information to be reconciled and balanced later. It is one of several ways the civilized set themselves apart from everyone else. And she wasn’t just anyone either! Not just a secretary or aide, but The Mrs. Miller herself! The lady of the household…. The household on wheels, at least.

It was a little overwhelming and perhaps, under other circumstances, a little unbecoming to be interrupted no less than three more times by people who were also apparently interested in signing on, but Hosea made no complaints. He was patient, it was early, and frankly, Mrs. Miller was doing a stand-up job of playing hostess without a proper sitting room. Even when one of those people appeared to be a drunkard - God help him. If that man was to join them (and Hosea was already thinking to himself that there was a them and that he was included), Hosea vowed then and there to fix him up good. Sober him up, get him to stand up straight and keep his hands off others, make him into something respectable - like the other man that stepped up right after himself, who introduced himself as Washington something-or-other. Now he looked like a respectable man, even if he did sound like he was named Washington Zoo for some reason.

Hosea visibly flinched when a man dressed in dark clothes seemed to materialize right out of the mist itself. His mind immediately leapt forward with visions of demons and devils lurking in the darkness, but he mentally swatted such thoughts away. It was a man that approached, not a demon. The mist was coming from the river thanks to the abrupt change in temperature, not something nefarious.

It was a deep relief when he put two and two together and surmised this man was not the Mr. Miller (thank God in all his glory for that) but it was not obvious who or what he was. An employee of the mercantile company perhaps? It would make sense maybe… a guard for valuables now signed on to head west, for surely the Miller family’s lives were the most valuable of all. And, surely, if the man was just a guard… he did not owe the man any answers. Just the Millers. So he would keep his information to himself, for now.

But still, as Hosea looked upon the scarred visage of the man and compared him to the far-more-pleasant people who had gathered to sign on… Hosea took a subtle step closer to the small crowd, filling in the gap that Washington created when he stepped away with Mrs. Miller. The distance felt safer. Hosea looked Hyun and Camille over, a bit judgmentally. A drunkard, and a woman in pants. Shocking. He made a quick mental note that this woman was very likely not wife material.

“It’s early in the day - are you truly drunk already?” Hosea ventured a question to Hyun, keeping his voice quiet. No sense in shaming this wagon in front of others with rumor material. The scandal of a wagon full of drunks and misfits…. It would be a terrible thing to befall the Millers, as certainly they were upstanding citizens. Right?

Before he could launch into a likely one-sided discussion about the evils of alcohol, Hosea felt a presence nearby, and he turned in time to see a skittish-looking woman approaching him, her cart parked some paces away.

Hosea flushed a little at the question - it meant he apparently looked like he knew what was going on and had a handle on things - and offered Charity a genuine smile. “Ah, yes, it does appear so, this is the gathering spot for the Miller Mercantile expedition.” He liked the sound of the word expedition. It sounded brave and adventurous and well-organized. Party sounded … rambunctious and loud.

“I’m Hosea Sinclair, one of the hopefuls for this trip. Mrs. Miller is conducting interviews. Mr. Miller is….” He hesitated, not knowing the actual answer to this. Not around was not a good response.

“Running an errand in town, and he will return promptly.” He didn’t know the man, but felt as if he at least owed him the dignity of covering for him under the assumption he was truly doing something useful and for the good of the group. Anything to keep latecomers from thinking this stinking, rude, scarred-over man nearby was the head of things.

“I take it by your inquiry you’re looking to join as well?”


Gordon Boone
April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Halle-fuckin’-lujah, at least one person was willing to answer his question with a straight enough answer instead of gawking at him like a slow child. He couldn’t tell what ‘entrepreneurship’ entailed, but medicine he recognized. Medicine would be helpful, even if just a smidge.

“Boone.” He responded, filling in the blank that Molly left open after ‘Mister’ but without offering a first name or anything else beyond that. He was fine being left a one-syllable sound on other people’s tongues. He didn’t like the way she seemed to sniff out right away that it was not, in fact, up to him who and what came with and what stayed. But… being observant was good. The last thing they needed was a bunch of oblivious, pearl-clutching, lace-waving fragile folk making this trip. And this crowd that gathered? Some of them certainly looked more than a bit on the lily-livered side.

“James Miller gets the final say,” Boone answered, plenty loud enough for Laura to hear and not giving a shit about that fact, “but as wagon guard, it's my responsibility to make sure nothin’ and nobody makes this trip any more dangerous than it’s already gonna be. So as long as your things aren’t secretly explosive or poisonous…” He trailed off, shrugging a shoulder at her.

“Not that I’d turn away a barrel of gunpowder or two. We’d just have to know ‘bout it, to keep a proper eye on it and all.” Boone gave Molly a look-over, not even hiding it. She looked… pretty, actually. Very much so, enough to catch his eye, not that he really had a type or was willing to admit it. And very well put together in comparison to some of the others he’d seen in town and approaching the Millers since they got here.

“Well, Miss Molly Goodbarrel, y’sure as shit sound useful to me, what with that smidge of medicine and all, which is a good start. We’ll see what the Missus Miller thinks. Or Mister Miller, whenever he gets back from… whatever the hell he’s doin’.” Boone gestured vaguely towards the town proper, in the direction James had slunk off earlier. If James had told him, he probably wasn’t listening, because to him it felt like James was always talking.

He let his arm drop back to his side, then let his hands rest on his holsters. It wasn’t a move meant to be intimidating; he acted like that was just their natural resting spot. Pistols occupied the holsters on both sides of his hips, shiny and well-maintained - as was the shotgun hung over his back. Firearms weren’t all he had; there was a sheathed dagger strapped to his thigh, and beneath his open coat was a leather strap crossways over his tunic and vest that held two more daggers and some pouches. The man was a walking armory, looking every bit the role of a guard.

“I don’t suppose you ever fired a gun, have you? And at anything more than a tin can on a fencepost?”


James Miller April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Mr. Miller had an eye for markets. In fact, standing there in the center of the market thrilled him. It would be the last time in a long time he had a multitude of suppliers to choose from, and he planned to make it count both financially and for his own enjoyment. James stood strongly by the belief that good product sold itself, the last available would always be the worst and for damn certain, the store owner shouldn't need to shout if he has anything worth selling. He didn't give the Indian shouting at him with a single horse a second glance. A different horse seller near the edge of the market caught his attention, cold and confident with a whole pen of fine horses and oxen.

He began to make his way over to him when he was interrupted by a young, strange-looking girl approaching him with a pony. Unfortunately for her, she seemed about as credible as the Indian.

“Sorry dear, I'm not in the market for a pony.” He said with a smile, refusing the note until she opened it. He skimmed it, expecting to see the price for the horse and some sob story, but paused when that was not what was written. He took the note to read it more thoroughly.

“That's a fine resumé you have.” He commented, folding the paper back up and handing it back to her. “You're in luck, I'm just about to get some livestock for our trip to Salvation and we have plenty of room in our wagon party. Should you want to, consider yourself a member of the Miller Mercantile Party.” He offered her a handshake and a bright, warm smile. “I’ll introduce you to the others once we get this sorted. You can tag along with me in the meantime.”

He didn't wait for a response, considering that she couldn't anyways.

The cowboy gave him a suspicious once over as James wordlessly inspected his wares, mimicking the cold expression. There were five horses and fourteen oxen, each in good condition, not a single one limping or thin. The cowboy slowly pushed himself off the post he was leaning against. James let him take his time, unwilling to show too much interest. A desperate man would pay a higher price.

The cowboy looked between him and the girl with a puzzled sort of expression before offering a smile that looked more like a smirk.

“You lookin’ for a ride?” He spoke with a voice like gravel.

James nodded.

“I’m heading west and looking for a ride for me and my wife, and twelve oxen to pull my wagon.” He glanced at his newfound companion then cleared his throat. “She's with our things, of course.”

The cowboy grinned a little wider at that. James wasn't quite sure why. Maybe he was excited to make a big sale. He rolled his shoulders before offering a hand to James.

“Name’s Cassidy, and I take damn good care of my horses.” The cowboy introduced as James shook his hand. James smiled back at him, returning the shake with a form grip.

“James Miller, and I can tell. Are these five all your stock?”

The cowboy shrugged, which did not strike Miller as a yes or a no answer to his yes or no question. The cowboy leaned a little closer and brushed his long black hair back.

“well, if your friend doesn't mind waiting, I've got a stallion by my wagon.”

James considered it for a moment. “Hm. I hear stallions are harder to handle, I'm not sure that's what I want for my wife.”

Cassidy chuckled. “I think he’d be a better fit for you, actually. You look like the kind who can handle a wild one.”

James responded with a laugh. “Me? Certainly not, I can barely ride. I’d much rather a horse that's more accustomed to people.”

“He’s been around, he can be plenty gentle too, whatever you need from him. If you need lessons, I'm happy to teach ya.” Cassidy leaned against the fence post. “Or you can show me how you like to ride, I can work with that.”

James hadn't expected that kind of customer service, to be frank. He blinked in surprise before rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. “I’m afraid I don't have the time for lessons. I’ll just take the oxen and the two calmest horses you have.”

Cassidy looked caught off guard this time, but he adjusted quickly. James watched as his gaze moved over his shoulder, turning to follow his sight line. It was just a group of men, soldiers by the looks of it. Cassidy coughed into his fist.

“Tell you what Mr. Miller, these are some of my finest horses and I’d hate to see them hurt. You got any protection on this wagon trip?” The cowboy tilted his hat down a bit.

James glanced back towards his wagon, which was obscured by the mist and the crowd. “I've got one man, but just the one.” He admitted. “I'm in need of a driver, too.

Cassidy scratched at the side of his face, looking at his pen for a minute. “I’ll give ya the friendly rate on the whole lot if you hire me on to keep horse thieves off your back. I ain't got nothing tying me here, I get my mustangs from out west anyways. I’m happy to drive as well, but I'll need to stow my things in your wagon.” He shrugged casually and lit a cigarette.

James didn't need long to think. “You’ve got a deal Mr. Cassidy.” He grinned, offering a second handshake to seal it. “Welcome to the Miller party.”


Molly GoodbarrelApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
Molly was accustomed to tracking her surroundings with a certain degree of hyper lucidity. One never knew when a shouted 'HEY!' or confused 'Wait just a minute...' might waft her way, and it was far better to be prepared. The arrival of a woman and her wagon, chatting up the blonde priestly gentleman didn't go unnoticed, but neither of them appeared to be gesticulating in Molly's direction, and so she paid them no mind. They were there, but not involving her. The same could be generally said for Poncho and Swordsman. They were around, but not pointing or yelling or otherwise making grand statements where Molly Goodbarrel's person or possessions were concerned, so..... she monitored but did not engage further.

Boon. It was probably spelled with an 'e' on the end, but having the man currently sizing up the crowd literally be named for a lucky gift or favor..... Good tidings. Good tidings indeed.

Even if Boon wasn't a Miller, he would do, as lucky omens went.

The rising fog turned the countryside impressionist, trees the idea of trees, wildflowers little more than splotches of color against the dim, smudgey ground. Notions of bushes. Whispers of grass. It was all terribly poetic and added to the sense that the caravan was truly setting off on some strange, land-sea, the rocking of their wagons and carriages no more than the undulating of waves. The illusion might have been shattered by the horses.... Except that Molly had never seen a seahorse in the flesh, and had absolutely no problem giving every horse present some imaginary tails and fins with which to swim among unknown, illusory currents.

Imagination was free, after all.

Wagon guard. So Sour-Face was a bodyguard. That was something of a relief, considering his general air. Boone was supposed to look vaguely hostile, and succeeded in that endeavor with great aplomb. James. James and Laura Miller. Those were the two in charge. No wonder Mrs Miller was none too thrilled to have the bandit-repellent try and bring order to the crowd.

Could Molly shoot? Molly brought up her hand in a see-sawing motion.
"I've made a few people regret attempting to encroach on my modesty, unwanted....... but I'm afraid those were all at close-range and under what you could imagine as more delicate circumstances. I doubt any of those I shot towards died from the experience, but I didn't linger to evaluate their health. Understandable, I would hope; the word 'no' is punctuated most firmly when accompanied by a slug to the knee or other....... leg-area."

The see-saw hand flipped over, palm to the heavens, finger curled delicately towards the road that vanished into the mist. "But out there? I've never had need to fire a gun at range, and no one to teach me how."

Her finger settled back into place, and her posture shifted to one of cheerful confidence. "I appreciate your judgement of my potential usefulness to the Miller party. I'd like to think of myself as........ resourceful. Though I'm afraid what little extra gunpowder I carry wouldn't be enough for your needs, surely."

A bob of her head included Poncho, who looked to Molly's eyes to be a woman of all tans and browns and chestnut warmth, and past Poncho the slender, nervous-looking woman who looked as she might melt into a plume of vapor herself, if she only tried hard enough. The two women were as different a visual experience as mahogany and mist, but they were both armed. So, too, was Drunk Swordsman..... technically....... but there were sayings about bringing blades to a gunfight for a reason, and as such, Molly didn't automatically include him in the group of possibly-helpful-in-a-firefight.

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Chevelle HazardApril 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri
"So you're really leavin' then?" Mary asked from behind the bar. Although she didn't intend to guilt the woman into staying, she couldn't hide her disappointment from her voice. She had come to like Chevelle, even if she was quiet, and even if she had a feeling there some dark secrets behind those deep honeyed eyes. She kept to herself, she worked hard, and she could sense there was a good heart in there; even if was buried deep. "Ain't easy findin' good workers around here... Sad to see you go."

"It was never meant to be permanent... I was just passin' through," Chevelle replied, her eyes avoiding Mary's as she could feel that her words were... heartfelt -- emotional. Generally, she'd never been the best when expressing her feelings, even before Sumner. Still, Chevelle never had any intention of getting attached to anyone here, or the people she would be traveling with to California.

But she had never intended to fall in love with Sumner Moody, and look where that got her.

Still, she was doing a good job at remaining safely behind the thick walls she'd built around herself over the years. Generally, she only let others see what she wanted them to see, and that wasn't much at all. It was safer that way -- better that way.

No one could hurt her if they never got the chance to see the parts that could be harmed, right?

"I know, but I was hopin' ya'd change your mind... Or somethin'," Mary offered a half smile as she wiped her hands on the rag in her grip and then flung it over her shoulder. She was stout women but she was sturdy. Her features were rounded and her blue eyes were as big and bright as the sky above. Chevelle thought she was beautiful, but not in a way she expected a man might be able to appreciate easily. "I made somethin' for you an little Miss Tallu... A parting gift to start your journey... Don't go nowhere, I'll be right back," she added as she turned to walk into the kitchen.

Chevelle nodded, and did as she was told, her dark eyes wandering the inn for the very last time as she committed it to memory. Even she had to admit, it had become... familiar. Maybe if she hadn't found that flyer she might have even stayed here longer; maybe it even could have been home... Or a home.

"Velle," a man's voice came from behind her, and Chevelle felt her spine reflexively stiffen in response. She'd been avoiding him since that night. Where they both had a little too much to drink, and suddenly layers of clothing were thrown to the wind along with caution itself. He'd been the only man she'd ever been with beside Sumner, and while it wasn't an unpleasant experience, she had been running from him ever since.

As she did best.

"Jimmy, I-"

"You ain't gotta say nothin'," he put a hand up in surrender as he chuckled. "I wasn't expectin' to marry you or nothin', but I...," he trailed off before clearing his throat. The truth was, he had admired her since the first time she walked through those doors, he just never thought he stood a chance. He wasn't a bad looking man, by any means. His body was impressive, he stood well over six feet, and flattering beard concealed a sharp jawline. He also had this way of smiling that had led Chevelle to forgo her undergarments. A sideways smirk that nestle in the corner of thin lips as his blue eyes glimmered with mischievous intent.

He'd made his rounds in town, but she had made him consider settling down.

Admittedly, Chevelle hadn't expected that a white man would have any interest in someone like her. There were many who looked down on her kind, and it formed a barrier between them that romantic pursuits wouldn't corss. In the same vain, most Natives were often far too xenophobic to consider bridging that gap. A prejudice born from hatred and fear in equal measure.

However, James was none of those things.

He simply saw Chevelle as... Chevelle.

Maybe that was why she let him in.

Even if it was just for one night.

"You were always good to me, James," Chevelle said after an awkward cluster of silent seconds. The use of his real name and not the moniker typically was used was purposeful, and he knew it. "Thank you... For everything," her eyes dropped to the floor, but rose to find his to drive the sincerity of her words. Maybe if she wasn't still so broken they could have been more, but unfortunately, she was a million fractured pieces trying to be whole again -- trying to stop from falling apart.

"No... Thank you," he replied with that crooked smile as a tinge of pink permeated his sun-kissed cheeks.

Chevelle couldn't help but blush herself as she knew exactly what he was thanking her for, and as they sat in that shared bashfulness Mary returned. Her stare shifting between the two of them as her smirk told them both that she was well aware of what was going on. "For you, Miss Hazard," Mary placed a basket on the counter and then waited for Chevelle to open it.

Without being asked, she popped it open and peered inside, sifting through its contents gently. It was a collection of food, much of it well preserved so it would last for days, or even weeks. On the very top, was a whole loaf of Mary's famous cinnamon nut bread, which had become Tallulah's favorite since their arrival. Along with it, was a folded piece of paper with directions on how to prepare it so she would never have to miss it.

Chevelle couldn't help but smile, and feel in her heart that maybe, just maybe, she was leaving something good behind.

For a moment, she wondered what a life here might be like. With Jimmy, and with Mary to watch over Tallu...


Whatever waited for them was west.

"Mary, you didn't need-"

"Ain't nobody need to do nothin', Miss Velle. We do because we want to, ya hear?" The older women grinned, the crow's feet nestled in the corners of blue eyes accentuated as she released a mournful sigh.

She really was sad to see her go.

"Now, I told Tommy to hook up a wagon to Miss Tallulah's horse... I know y'all like to pack light, so it aint much... But I hear it gets real cold at night on the road. So it's just a few things to set up camp... To help you take care of that sweet girl... And I know that you will," Mary affirmed with a nod of her head.

Chevelle didn't know what to say. She wasn't very good at taking compliments, or gestures of kindness from others. In her life, there hadn't been much of a chance to become accustomed to things of that nature.

A sad truth, but a truth all the same.

"I don't know what to say," she finally replied as her hand moved to grip the handle of the basket.

"Most would just say thank you, Miss Velle," Mary grinned.


"Why'd they have to put the wagon on my horse?" Tallulah was standing with hands on her hips when Chevelle returned. Her cheeks were still red from the kiss Jimmy had planted on her cheek before she walked away. The memory of his blue eyes burned into her mind as she adjusted to the fact that it would only ever be exactly that.

A memory.

"So you won't run off," Chevelle replied sarcastically as she offered her sister the basket. "Mary made somethin' special for you."

With furrowed eyebrows, she reached for the basket, and popped open the lid hesitantly. The smell of the bread alone seemed to alleviate her aggrivation as she unraveled the neatly wrapped loaf, and began to dig in as if she'd been starved for days. Chevelle smiled at she watched her, and then allowed her gaze to wander to the growing party around who she believed to be the Millers. She hadn't known what to expect, but it certainly hadn't been this. The party of individuals was motley at best, some of them with origins from far off lands -- those she had never met before in her life on the reservation. There were even a few of her own kind, though expectedly not Narragansett, and it brought her a sense of comfort; even if they were strangers.

"Come on, little bird... We should go and introduce ourselves," she looked over her shoulder to find her sister slumping into the wagon she had just complained about. With a dry chuckle, she shook her head, adjusted her hat so her face might be more easily seen, and began to make her way over to the Miller's gathering entourage. As she walked, she raised her fingers to her lips, a loud whistle calling her horses to follow that would no doubt draw the attention of those she intended to join.

Pointedly, she didn't avert her eyes to those she passed, her attention fixated on those who were responsible for bringing them all here. Once she was close enough, she pulled on the reins of her own horse so that she would come to a stop, and walked forward alone. Tallulah happily dining on the bread as she lounged in the wagon and avoided the eyes of their new company.

"Chevelle Hazard... I'm here to join the Miller party headed to Salvation," she introduced politely. "Me and my sister, Tallulah, come from Rhode Island. I'm capable with medicine, firearms, and a number of other things... I'll carry my weight and hers plenty enough, I assure you," Chevelle offered a sure nod of her head as her gaze slipped to the others for the first time. Dark eyes taking only a moment to linger on each of the faces gathered before in returned to the Millers. "I feel it's only right to say that I am thankful for this oppurtunity," she added. The pattern of her speaking was unusual and rythmic, but she spoke well. Her voice was raspy and velveteen, and the way she carried herself often surprised most; given she was an Indian.

The low expectations of others never did bother her, it only gave her satisfaction when she surpassed them ten times over.

As she always did.

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Soo Hyun-WooApril 28th, 1848, Independence, Missouri

Keeping himself steady by leaning against Camille, Hyun smiled and nodded as more and more people gathered around him. He was used to the curious stares and he did not mind them. Let them look upon his beauty - it was one of his many gifts he shared with the world.

Only when the questions began being asked did Hyun speak again, more than content to just watch the others and listen as spoke and shared about themselves. The man dressed in black - oh what an intimidating creature he must think himself to be - seemed to take the lead, asking them all their names and purposes. After a small squeeze of Camille's shoulder, Hyun pushed himself off of her in an attempt to stand up straight and prove to the others that he was indeed not quite as intoxicated as he perhaps seemed.

"Soo Hyun-Woo, it is a pleasure to meet you all, darlings. What fun we will all have together, I imagine. I offer you all many, many things. My darling companion here and I are circus performers - rather, former circus performers. Though we remain entertainers none the less, isn't that right, my dear?" His eyes drifted back to his friend before looking directly at the man in black.

"California is a long way away my darling, and I am a man who has already traveled a long distance to get here. It can be boring traveling such lengths, I am sure you all will need story tellers to keep the morale high. I will offer that to you all, I am filled with true ones from my travels should you have a curiosity for the greater world beyond your own country, and I am quite skilled at making them up on the spot as well if you prefer a more fantastical tale. I anticipate a great deal of tears and laughter shared around the campfire. All courtesy of me, Soo Hyun-Woo."

He paused briefly then stared at Camille with a confused look on his face. "Supplies, darling.. what supplies did we bring? We have horses. We have ourselves." He lifted up the extra pair of boots which dangled from his hands. "I have an extra pair of boots as well."

For the two who seemed quite invested in his sobriety - the sour faced woman on the wagon who seemed to be the boss of the whole affair by the way she put the man in black in his place, and then the man who reminded him of the missionaries he'd encountered back in Joseon, he shrugged his shoulders and let the boots drop to the ground.

"I have not been drinking this early, worry not. I am only drunk right now because I was drinking last night. Soon enough I'll be as sober as any of you, though if my fate is to be decapitated by the wheels of wagon, so be it. I have lived a good life, and I have no regrets. You mustn't worry about me."

The woman in black, she had a few things to say as well it seemed, though as he watched the way she conversed with the man in black, perhaps it would be more polite of him to just let the two have their moment. What a lovely pair they made.

"I love questions darling, almost as much as I love answering them, so please never feel shy if there is something you'd like to know. I may even tell you the truth of the matter from time to time. But you are so observant my dear, to notice my sword - I am skilled with it, and I have more in my pack as well. I am rather deadly with them when I shove them inside of others - but my true talents and primary role at the circus besides collecting money and introducing the others, is how adept I am at shoving them inside of my self."

Hyun-Woo bit his lip as he leered at the others who were gathered. "Now you all must step back as this is not an interactive performance. If you'd like one of those, I'm afraid I'd have to charge you. But if you require a display of my talents before I am allowed to join you, then a display of my talents you will have."

Hyun dropped his bag on the ground by his boots, took a few steps forward before turning his head back to Camille. "My love, if one of them even dares approach me as I work, please shoot them in the face."

With a easy grin, Hyun dramatically withdrew his sword from it's sheath then extended his arm which held the blade out, and walked in a small circle - again, to put some distance between himself and the others, for it could be very dangerous were someone to shove him or otherwise move his body while he worked - but also to invite them to touch the sword, should they like to or had any doubts regarding the legitimacy of the blade in question. "Careful, darlings. It's real, and it's very sharp."

He looked at the nervous little creature with the absurdly large gun strapped to her back and made the kind of intense, uncomfortable eye contact that comes from intoxication. Pulling back his arm, as the length of his sword passed by his lips, Hyun-Woo extended his tongue from between them, allowing it to drag over the sharp steel.

When one side had been properly licked, he winked at the woman, then turned the sword over, now turning to the Native woman who had approached. He never liked the word Indian to describe the people who lived in America before the Europeans came, as he'd spent time in India - and the long haired beauty in front of him was no Indian.

He made the same show of licking the opposite side of the blade as he maintained eye contact with her through narrowed, observant eyes, giving her a little wink when his tongue reached the end again.

"I bet you'll like this part the best." Hyun said, his dark stare focusing now on the stiff man who could have passed for a missionary. "You certainly seem the type. That doesn't mean the ladies can't learn a thing or two as well - but again, I do charge for those sorts of lessons."

Hyun laughed then looked back at Camille with a slight nod of his head, and straightened his body as he leaned his head back and placed the tip of his sword to his lips. Carefully lifting it, aligning it in the correct position, he then began feeding it into his mouth, inch by inch, until all but the hilt of it remained outside of his mouth. The sword swallower dramatically extended both of his arms the side, with theatrical twist of his wrists, and then bowed at a near 90 degree angle to his audience.

After a brief pause, he straightened his back once more, then in a quick and steady movement, removed the sword from his mouth. This was the part where he'd typically say something witty and clever and flirt with his admirers and do all the sorts of things that had made him so popular and well liked at the circus. But this time, Hyun only swallowed deeply and a quite troubled expression crossed his face. He pushed his lips together, trying to stop the inevitable, but at this point in the process - there was simply nothing he could do.

For Hyun's finale, he vomited up the contents of his stomach in the middle of the circle.

Every performer knows the most important rule though - the show must always go on, and after a brief pause to wipe his lips with the fabric of his sleeves, he smiled and took another bow, as if it were all planned and part of the show.

"I suppose that may help in sobering me up a bit more quickly before our journey begins, won't it, my loves?"

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Camille Mcreery​

April 28th 1848, Independence, Missouri​

Not long after Camille had made her way over to the woman, she felt as Hyun came up and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Used to his way at this point she only gave a small side glace at him when she realized he still smelled of alcohol.

Camille took a look at the group that had begun gathering around the woman. There was a well dressed man, who looked similar to Hyun but she could tell just by looking at him that that was where the similarities probably ended.

There was a priestly look man and Camille only hoped he didn’t try to recruit her for whatever religion he followed. She has no problems with religion, she just sees no need to trying to appease someone that thinks Camille is a sin just by existing.

The man who had stepped up to help the woman was rough-looking. She could tell that the woman, who she believes to be named Laura, didn’t appreciate the man stepping in. Camille could only hope that wasn’t going to be an issue she had no qualms if she had to show him just how well of a shot she was.

A shaky looking woman, with a shotgun across her back, had joined. She didn’t seem like much and Camille wasn’t even sure if she’d be able to shoot the gun, maybe she could offer to teach her.

After Laura had taken Washington? Camille didn’t pay attention but believed that to be the name of the well dressed man. She should have probably paid attention to what everyone's names were. Two native women came up, one a little older than the other. The older announced herself as Chevelle and the younger as Tallulah. She was a rather pretty woman with long hair and Camille could respect her for letting everyone know what she could do.

The woman who had made a scene not too long ago by wailing had also joined the group. Camille wasn’t sure how she felt about that, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to deal with someone who seemed just as likely as Hyun to make a scene. She could only hope with the growing audience Hyun wouldn’t try anything.

Speaking of Hyun, she felt as he lifted off her shoulder. Sighing as she listened to his oh so dramatic introduction, she should have known better than to think anything different but she couldn't just leave him to perform alone. And if she was being honest, she wanted to perform as well.

She kept a neutral face, knowing a fake smile wasn’t needed here, and as Hyun told her to shoot anyone who bothered him during the show she flipped her poncho off and revealed the twin pistols she had at her hips.

Camille had always thought Hyun’s sword swallowing was an interesting act, even if he did use it to flirt more than one would think possible. Then she watched as last night came back up and had to hold back a grimace at the sight. Maybe he should have waited to show off until he was more sober.

Camille knew that wouldn’t be the end Hyun and her were both prepared to bounce back to finish a performance. She took both guns out of their holsters and spun them around her finger just to put them right back. She took a bow, following Hyun’s, with her arms out to her side and one leg crossing behind the other.

She only wished that she could have put on at least a little more of a show, but shooting her guns in the middle of a town wasn’t a good idea and she didn't have her horse, Reaper, with her. Oh well, there will be other chances.

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