Crossfire

Salt Lake Bound!
The Journal of Father Eric Brooks

August 16, 1875

Miss Veila has received word that an uncle in Salt Lake City had passed, leaving a significant portion of his estate to her. In order to begin our journey West, we returned to Jackson, our original party now reduced to Miss Mirta Veila, Mr Antonio Marconi, the child Danika, and myself. Leaving Oxford, we were also joined by a Mr Stephan Deepneau, an inquisitive – if rather abrasive – fellow with an interest in the… unusual.

Upon arriving in Jackson and securing lodging for the night, my companions went about their usual business. Given the excitement the last time we passed through Jackson, we were going to keep a low profile for the night. It appeared to be a quiet evening for once – which I should know, by now, just means there’s something we’re going to have to deal with in the morning.

As it turns out, Miss Danika’s description of “low profile” involves buying lockpicks, for which she was arrested. After confiscating the child’s personal armory – which I can only assume took up most of the night – the sheriff’s deputies released her into Miss Mirta’s custody, along with her assortment of knives (of which, I can only assume Miss Veila claimed ownership). In the morning, it was left to Mr Marconi to retrieve her firearm collection. The story being they are research for a design he’s working on of a quick-draw Derringer holster. Given the lukewarm (at best) reception Marconi has received as an Italian, I thought it best to accompany him, in order to smooth the way.

As we approached the sheriff’s office, we were greeted by a man dressed – apparently – as a Texas Ranger, but with a heavy Russian accent. After addressing us both by name, and several claims of “our best interests” he invited himself to accompany us on our journeys. Eventually, he introduced himself as Ranger Victor Edwards, but refuses to give any indication as to his motives, or true intentions for our party.

I can’t help but be concerned this is somehow involved with the unpleasantness in Mexico that took the life of Ranger Lockwood. Though at this point, it’s merely a baseless suspicion, it’s too much of a coincidence for this man, who seems to know more about us than he’s willing to divulge about himself, to simply fall across our path. He also seems to be a rather hot-headed man, one who is perfectly willing to shoot first and ask questions… maybe. This could simply be a matter of a poor first impression – when I declined to bless his twin pistols, he turned one of them on me. That sort of thing leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth.

Upon retrieving Marconi’s property, we return to our lodging and prepare to cross the Mississippi. The crossing occurs with almost no incident, aside from a panicked horse somewhere in the line behind us – Railroad workers put the beast down and cleared the lane in short order, to keep traffic moving smoothly. Some urchins on the Arkansas side of the river also attempted to relieve our wagon of some supplies, but Mister Deepneau’s sharp eyes spotted them before they were able to make off with anything.

The remainder of the day was spent on the trail, and we made camp alongside a wagon train which we caught up just before dusk. They were gracious enough to allow us to share a campground, but made it perfectly clear we were not welcome among them for the evening.

August 17, 1875

Upon daybreak, we broke camp and headed out – our decision was to leave early, to avoid delays from being behind the caravan all day. Shortly before we left Jackson, Danika informed me there were some men in town searching for Miss Veila, and she informed us that afternoon that they were now on our back-trail.

Gradually Mr Edwards fell back from our group, to better assess our follower’s intention. The rest of us continued on, making camp in an abandoned farmstead for the night. As we were setting up camp, we heard gunfire from along the trail. Mr Deepneau and myself rushed to the scene on horseback, to find Ranger Edwards lying on the ground with a gunshot wound in his belly. As I was doing what I could to stop the bleeding and save the man, Danika arrived – accompanied by the beast Pookie. The dog, upon smelling blood, immediately attempted to eat what he thought was food. Fortunately, Mr Deepneau was able to wrestle him off before any further damage was done.

Then began the strangest thing I have yet seen that child do – she muttered something almost prayerlike under her breath, cleaning and passing her hands over the wound for a few moments. Then she reached into the wound itself, and extracted the bullet. Once that was done, the wound sealed itself, leaving not so much as a scar to show the Ranger had been shot.

Mr Deepneau – who seems to have an eye for the strange – immediately began questioning what had just happened. Not understanding myself (and still largely flabbergasted), I attempted to defer the question until we got our companion back to camp and made him comfortable.

When Edwards regain consciousness, his questions were much along the same lines as Mr Deepneau’s – though with much more force. Both of them seemed to direct their questioning at me, despite my assertion that I was just as much “in the dark” about what had happened as they. Is it possible the child was able to work a miracle?

After much discussion – in the guise of a loud, forceful debate between myself and the Ranger – we were able to get some kind of story of what happened to Victor. It seems he confronted our followers and, when he asked their interest in our group, they drew on him and opened fire.

He claims he only drew in self-defense, but given his brash, fast-acting nature I can’t help wonder if we’re getting the full story from him.

From the description he gave – of the men’s full, neatly-trimmed beards and the cross-and-star badge their leader was wearing – I believe them to be Dananites: “lawmen” sent out by Deseret‘s blasphemous church. I’m very worried that they would venture this far East in search of Miss Veila – if LDS attack dogs are already after us this far from Salt Lake City, what kind of reception can we expect when we finally arrive there?

Once cooler heads than the Ranger’s (and, to my great shame, mine) prevailed, the rest of the evening passed relatively without incident. Though the child continues to suffer from horrible nightmares, which kept several of us awake throughout the night. I understand that Mr Marconi is attempting to apply his alchemical talents towards finding a means to quiet the girl’s sleep – an act of mercy not only to to Danika, but anyone she travels with.

August 18, 1875

For well over a week now, we have traveled largely without incident. We recently passed through Wichita – bypassing the Coyote Confederation entirely – and are roughly following the Black River rail line through the disputed territories.

Late this afternoon, we encountered the remains of a still-burning wagon train. Based on Mr Deepneau’s findings, it appears this was the scene of a minor skirmish between some Confederate sympathizers bringing supplies East for the war effort, and some Yankee raiders hell-bent on preventing just that. It appears the Yankees won this particular battle, as horses were slaughtered and one of the wagons set ablaze.

We spent the rest of the day ministering to the fallen. While we didn’t have time to properly bury these poor souls (scavengers – not to mention Pookie – saw to that), I was able to at least perform last rites. Once this was done, we set to burning the bodies using the remains of the wagons – Confederate or Yankee, these men will arrive to God together. Once the bodies started burning however, the stench… overwhelmed me completely. I was barely able to keep upright, much less help perform this final service. My lunch, sadly, was left on the prairie.

It is now just after midnight. We’ve made camp a little way upwind of the afternoon’s activities, and Mr Deepneau has just woken me for my turn at watch. Just before dark, he spotted a figure on the horizon. Unfortunately, the sun prevented him from making out any useful details, other than that someone was there.

Things are very quiet now. Aside from the wind, there’s barely anything mov- What was that? There is something out in the tall grass. Someone’s found us! I must wake the others!

Lord, Grant me strength!

Your Humble (if somewhat overwhelmed) servant
- Fr. Eric Brooks

August 18, 1875 – Addendum

Forgive me Father, for I don’t think the others will anytime soon. Though I swear before you that I heard something out in the tall grass, when I woke everyone else there was nothing to be found but the wind. After my mistake was uncovered, Ranger Edwards relieved me of the remainder of my watch. I’ll do my best to get to sleep, but I don’t think it will be soon in coming.

Your (truly) Humbled servant
- Fr. Brooks

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