This RP is part of the Great Reformation arc.
Synopsis: Ahab and Croix travel to the East together to meet with Mara and the other district leaders as agreed upon through the letter Ahab had previously delivered. At the Quarry site, Croix's motives are met with skepticism and distrust, and she's forced to answer questions about why she's offering so much for so little. Satisfied or not with her answers, the district leaders accept her goods enough to point her toward the leader of the survivor city.
Characters: Ahab, Croix, and Mara
Location: The Ruined Quarry, East Ankou Ennis
The Ruined Quarry
The wilderness seems to have made every effort to grow back in, and for a moment it might be all too easy to mistake the area for simple hills. However, there seems to be some method to their arrangement, and closer inspection reveals deep scars and tracks where small rails have once been laid down. A few mangled piles of steel in the grasses might even reveal the remains of carts, and piles of cut stone hint toward this having once been a quarry. Continuing further west reveals a border of stone walls, their surface still marked by the heavy machinery that once exposed them to the open air. A small, sheltered tunnel with its rusted railway still intact leads further west, toward the old mines beyond.
Croix stood at the top of a hill with a spyglass held to her eye and watched the horizon. She stood there a long time, back straight and regal, like a captain proper. She wasn't on the deck of her ship, though. She was well above ground at an overgrown quarry on the east side of the great wall of Ankou, a place she had never believed she would find herself. Her life had never been what she'd expected, though, had it? Her life had truly been a series of unfortunate and unanticipated events, and the only thing that assured her she wasn't damned with bad luck was the sheer fact she was still alive. Life had presented enough opportunities to steal that from her, and the fates had always left her with that gift. The East was her mortality and her humanity, and she wanted desperately to see it repaired. Lowering the spyglass, she looked to Ahab and then to the wagon and goods. She'd picked the top of a mound because it was a better vantage point to watch for the survivors and for any approaching infected, though the people Ahab had found to patrol the perimeter would be watching for them as well. The wagon was brought over in pieces over several days and built from the ground up, and the goods were easy enough to acquire and smuggle in after that. The horses had been the tricky part, though. They had to be brought over by train and then ridden over to the quarry to be strapped to the wagon. Fortunately, there were only two of them, but Croix doubted they'd be the last to come to the East. She was quiet, thin wisps of hair having fallen free at her hairline, curled by the humidity and dancing with the occasional breeze. She didn't know who to expect, but she felt sure she and Ahab would be fine. That's when she lifted the spyglass to her eye again to keep a watch of the horizon.
Ahab was crouched down, one hand to the ground and watching the horizon with her. Though his focus was on what was on the very edge of it. His two new recruits, Florian and Patch...or Patches, or whatever the fuck he called himself, weren't seen, but felt. Patrolling the perimeters with a deadly and quiet grace, they dispatched any infected they came across without so much as a sound. Ahab rose to his feet after a few moments, pressing his fist into his jaw to tilt his head and crack his neck. First one way, then the other. It was quiet. Just the way he liked it. Compared to Croix, he didn't look nearly as 'proper'. But he was regal in his own right. An air of savagery. Of the East. When Croix looked his way, he simply patted her on the shoulder, a quiet reassurance, before moving to quadruple check the wagon.
Mara had known of the arrival of the parties long before those supplies had begun to filter in, mostly because no real secret of the planned location or date of arrival had been made, and the West city woman had chosen a place that by its very nature was something close enough to home for a patient game of cat and mouse to take place. Not that there was any trapping or injury intended..Mara had just lived in hell long enough, not to believe in heaven. And what the woman was proposing sounded damned near to heaven to her ears. Deep in the underground mine chambers that the scavengers occupied, the soft rattle and of the alarm system that had been rigged up on the perimeter of the quarry had gone off at a steady rate and at regular intervals as the hour of meeting drew nearer,causing herself and another who were on watch to shift to reach for weapons and head to the surface. Was it a shuffler? Or one of the more lethal, older of the cursed who had crossed into that territory? Or had the writer of that letter come, as promised? They would know soon enough. Matted hair fell in almost dreadlocked tangles to the middle of the scavenger???s waist, and grey eyes squinted into what was left of the light, an attempt made to see just what lay beyond the mouth of the mine. No risk had been taken to look above ground at anytime during their vigil. All they knew was that someone..or something was out there. And that it was time to show themselves. Lean muscle flashed through the meshwork of fibers and fabric patches that had been rigged together to form her outfit- there was more skin than cloth to be seen. But there would be no denying the power or reach of the custom gun that she carried rested on her shoulder. Her party was small, comprised of the section leaders of each of the four districts of the city. If supply was to be had..there would have to be representation from all parties, in order that a civil war over rights to access and control of the supply could be avoided. Two women, and two men, then, were the shadows that emerged from behind the watchers, to stand quiet and still, gazes sweeping the quiet of the quarry bed, before lifting to the reflective wink of spy glass. Mara reached to her throat, the twine necklace that sat there, and the flat bit of mirror framed about with fiber that served as a pendant. Lifting the glass she angled it to wink a greeting toward the outline atop the bluffs, but she did not call out.
Croix caught quickly onto the sight of that glint in the distance and visibly grinned. It was brighter than any smile she'd ever held since Pere's death. There was genuine joy in her eyes when she lowered the spyglass and looked to Ahab, expecting him to have seen what she had. There was, of course, no way he could've seen that glint, though. Her smile faded a bit, but then she turned her attention in that direction again and pulled the spyglass up to her eye to watch. "They're comin'," she said from behind the lens. It was said in that flat, matter-of-fact drawl. She didn't have that country twang, though. Her southern drawl was of an upperclassman who'd been pampered in wealth and educated profoundly. There was hardly a subject she hadn't learned about, though what she'd been exposed to were perhaps lessons more suited to a young man being raised for military or governmental leadership and entrepreneurship. La Croix was a capitalist at heart, trained to build and sustain healthy business. She had an avid understanding of economy and governmental policy. As much as she hated the politics of the corrupt government of the West, her hatred was born of an intelligent and intrigued understanding of the innerworkings, and benefits and consequences of certain political decisions. And when she had come to the East, all she could see for miles around was an overwhelming need for restoration and reformation. The room for improved livelihood and profit were all there, untapped by its residents only because they had been so thoroughly abandoned and neglected by the greatest source for capital to fund such reform. Croix hoped to trigger a chain reaction of self-improvement within the East. The buildings could be restored, essential institutions like a school established, and the factories repurposed for the needs of the people here. All they needed was an idea and the capital to realize it. She smiled to herself again, and then she said, "You should fahnd out about roundin' up the infected aftah this. We need them taken care of before anythin' else can be done. Makin' the East safe fah us as well as them is imperative. Once the streets are cleared, we can go about pavin' a neat path to the city and deliver the goods there ourselves, and we can hire people from the city to help restore the apartments and shops, and everyone can go back to a normal life above ground."
Ahab was busy checking the wagon and, sadly, had missed the glint. But he picked up significantly when she said they were coming, whipping around to face Croix. "Hoooolyyyyy shit it's happenin', Croix. Err." A cough, and he straightened himself. Composure. "...sorry. Excited. I'll try t'not...y'know. Fuck it up." And by that, he meant he'd stay goddamn quiet. But to improve the East, to improve his...well, much as he didn't admit it, his home...it would be a grand thing to see it. And he had all of eternity to do it, too. That thought is what warmed him the most. Moving to stand next to her, he agreed to her assessment. "Yeah, I got some ideas...places, 'n the like. Ain't gonna be easy, but I'm sure Florian 'n Patch'll be up fer it. Those two could use a run." A beat. A hand patted Croix's shoulder again, though more to reassure himself then anything. "...let's make some feckin' history, yeah?"
Mara waited just long enough for their 'guest' to be aware that she was present, and that she had company with her, before moving out into the open, four abreast in a picture that was as raw, and some might have thought intimidating, as any a civilized west sider might have ever seen. They were the abandoned, the desolate, but they had survived. They had found a way to wrestle life out of the jaws of undeath, and that had meant working together, learning to trust in spite of a survivor's instinct to trust no one else. They would not have been able to survive alone, but together they had. The debate had been heated, when Mara first presented the letter and the proposal. Danny had been vehemently opposed to the idea of giving any ground to the west siders. They had survived hell without them, and could bloody well rebuild without them now. Where had they been when they had really been needed? Even now, walking at her left side, the bulky height and tense muscled mass of the man with the low, shaved mohawk and the goatee spoke everything of the reluctant hardness of the scarred, and roughly tattooed male. Makeshift scrap armor was strapped to his thighs, biceps and forearms, and a bone earring speared one ear. Farther to her left, the petite form of Kit, a pixie cut brunette with goggles tucked into place above her brow, belied the speed and agility of the leader of section two. The scavenged crossbow strapped to her back might seem almost as tall as she was; the patchwork of leather vest and ragged jeans and the weapons belt sitting low on her hips anchored with daggers cobbled together on each hip declaring her preference to travel light and fast. And at the far end of their wall, to Mara's right, a dark skinned, bald headed male whose bare chest was crossed with a combination of ammo belts and thin white scars under a choker that seemed beaded with something alarmingly similar to teeth, moved at his own steady space with a loose hold on a gun resting on his shoulder, that seemed about the thickness of his arm. Dax didn't much care if they made use of what the West was offering, so long as his people were in line for some of the provision. He'd seen another die, just before this operation had gotten underway. Mara, as if by some unspoken agreement stepped out just ahead of the four as distance closed to the wagon, and finally, words were spoken. "We're here." Understatement. Obvious. But that had taken some doing. Danny snorted softly behind her, and earned a dirty look from Kit. Dax shifted his gun from one shoulder to the next, his expression giving nothing away.
Croix had lowered her spyglass when she could make out the details of each silhouette from the distance, closed the spyglass to its compact form, and slid it into a pocket inside her thick captain's coat. That coat had seen more wear when it endured the East for that short time than the years combined that she'd worn it out to sea. And even so, it would look like nothing their generation of people might have ever seen with the exception of having witnessed a high-ranking seafarer travel to the East in search of the mythical treasure before. Strange that the rogue captain who crossed not in search of the treasure or the cure would come upon both and forsake the treasure in exchange for the cure. She and Ahab were responsible for the release of the cure, but that was the furthest thing from La Croix's mind. "As are we," she responded with a surprisingly amicable smile. Ahab would perhaps witness a side of Croix he'd never seen before: the diplomat. "Ah'm La Croix, the authah of the lettah. Ah assume you've all read it," she stated, holding back from extending her hand to shake theirs for fear of confusing them in the event it wasn't a custom they practiced. If they hadn't known how to pronounce her name, she offered that peculiar pronunciation, then - 'luh quah'. She then lifted her hand to gesture towards Ahab and said, "And this is Ahab. He delivah'd the lettah for me. He's native to the East." A short pause, and then she said, "We have all kahnds of formalities in the West that Ah doubt you'd be particulah to, so Ah ask that you lead us in this convuhsation." Coal black eyes made contact with all four leaders. "Ah can tell there's skepticism in some of you, and Ah don't blame you. Ah wouldn't trust an outsidah, eithah, especially one from the West. So please feel free." She gestured with her hands, inviting them to proceed however they saw fit.
Ahab stayed by the wagon, though he was tempted to offer a low whistle at the sight of the four survivors. What a group they made. He was impressed. And that crossbow...wish he'd had a piece like that, that's for sure. But! He stayed by the horses. Wary of this new, dangerous environment, they had wide eyes and occasionally stamped in irritation, bothered more than usual by the harnesses that held them to the wagon. It was keeping them there, trapped, in case of a threat. Ahab casually stroked the mane of one in an attempt to calm it, earning a lowered head and brief respite in response. He'd never seen a horse until he'd gone West, and he was enamored with the creatures. Their power, their mobility. They reminded him of himself. At his namedrop, he offered a casual wave. He certainly looked the part. His clothing was all rather tight, and his shoes seemed to be nothing more than sacks tied to his feet in order to muffle noise, with a poncho of sorts for complete mobility. But he offered them a smile of his own. Perhaps as some form of reassurance from an Easterner.
Mara would be the one to answer, first, her grey eyes sweeping an attentive look across the horse and wagon of supplies. Precious, precious supplies. She didn't think anyone in the city had had a 'new' thing in years. Even scavenged and cobbled treasures were years old and hand me downs. It was like a drug, a treasure trove that sang a siren song and she was hard pressed to ignore it. "You'd be reckoning rightly, Croix.." she offered the casual shortened version of the name with the familiarity and lack of formality that came with years of treating everyone as an equal. Even children, in the east, addressed adults by first name or moniker. Life grew them up hard, and fast. "And the main question most want to know..is WHY should we trust your interfering." Dax it seemed, had little care for any expectation that he should keep his distance. The black man was moving with an easy, careless stride toward the wagon and the easterner settled there. The horses got a long look, but then his gun was an extension of his hand, barrel poking into the pile on the wagon to nudge any covering aside, that dark eyes could see the treasure beneath. A sidelong look Ahab's way, and his voice came rough, as if he was unused to speaking much. "Haven't seen you round the city.." For that claim of being an easterner. That generally meant one of two things. He had survived outside with the plague, or he'd abandoned them to live the other side of the wall. Neither imbued trust. Kit stepped forward behind Mara, to chime in. "And more to the point, Why do you want to help us, NOW." Her wariness was evident in her eyes. For all she gave Danny a difficult time, his argument was compelling. The mohawked man stood in grim silence, arms lifting to fold across his chest, an unconscious reflection of his resistance to the whole negotiation. He was only here to make sure whatever decision was made, his section would be remembered and accounted for.
Croix took their questioning in stride. She knew hard people would ask hard questions, and it didn't make her flinch. For all the pampering and wealth she'd been adopted into, there had been many foster homes and orphanages before that with false names offered to false parents. And that didn't even scratch the surface of Croix's own hard life. She couldn't understand the struggle of the East, but she could understand what a struggle meant. "Wah shouldja, indeed," she answered first. "Ah don't think you should trust me. Ah think you should be as wary as your life has taught'chu t'be. Ah am a strangah, and Ah'm offerin' a whole hell of a lot fah no reason, aren't Ah?" Rhetorical. "It ain't a lot to me, though. Ah'm a trade ship captain, so Ah run a lot of the imports into the city back ovah West. The people trackin' the tax money that buys the imports are pretty damn daft, so when high costs flow out and less imports flow in, they don't notice. It doesn't cost me a dahme to give you folks this stuff," she said, turning toward the wagon and gesturing toward it. "The horses did cost me money, but that's to our mutual benefit. Ah didn't want to carry the goods on mah own back, so Ah got horses t'do it for me. Their a gift to you and your people, 'cause Ah know none of you could carry all that as quick and safe to the city as a horse drawin' a wagon could." She watched the horses for a beat and licked her lips. "As fuh wah Ah'm helpin' 'now': Ah didn't know about the East until the so-called now. Ah was raised to believe it was a conspiracy, a distraction from the govuhnment so the politicians could carry on their dirty, corrupt work. You see, that wall goin' up wasn't the first of their inhumanity. Two-hundred and fifty years have now gone bah, and the govuhnment hasn't changed. Switch out the people but the game stays the same. So wah wouldn't Ah believe it was all bullshit?" Seemed logical. "But then Ah crossed ovah in search of somethin' near and dear t'me and Ah realized how deeply astray Ah have been led all these years. Seein' this land and seein' the people, sufferin' the fear of gettin' attacked at any moment and turnin' into some... monstah... it made me realize there was so much that should've been done and never got taken care of. Ah am not the people of Ankou who erected that wall, and Ah am not the two-hundred and fifty years of govuhnment that decided to fuhget y'all. Ah'm just twenty-seven years of an immigrant from Adrasei not wantin' to be fooled bah a corrupt govuhnment fahndin' herself smack in the middle of a world she thought was supahstitious nonsense. As soon as Ah made it back to the West, Ah knew somethin' had to be done, so here Ah am. You wanna hear what Ah wanna do, or do you have more questions fah me?"
Ahab gladly let the man, Dax, go and inspect all the goods they'd be getting. Including the horses, which...saddened Ahab a bit, but he kept one hand on one of the horses. He wanted one of his own someday. "Nah, y'wouldn't. Jus' a kid when the parents went, yeah? Practically went feral 'n was worried all the bigger people...adults 'n shit, would fuck me over somehow. Really all I did was survive 'n dig a buncha holes to hide in." He whistled low, mostly to himself, and shook his head. "Whoooole lotta fuckin' holes...still surprised somethin' so simple worked. Gotta admit, in somethin' resemblin' some sorta feckin' superior hindsight..." He chuckled. "Kinda regret not goin' t'the city...woulda made life a lot less harder, y'know?" Ahab would have changed a significant amount of his past life. Maybe he wouldn't have been so fucked up then, though he wasn't 100% sure. After a moment, though, he focused in on Croix's words. For all the time he'd been trying to convince her it was real, all it took was her going over. To think he once hated this woman with practically every fiber of his being. A low hum, a pat of the horse, and he looked back to Dax. "Likin' the cargo?"
Mara's eyes narrowed slightly as she listened to the tale unfold. She was hard pressed to find a counterargument that would delegitimize the woman's desire to help, and the fact that she was an import, even to the west side and a ship captain, lent her even more of a cover for that experience. She relaxed slightly, pensive for a few beats as she turned over in her mind, once more, what this would mean for the people she had helped to protect, and who had communally raised her as an orphan for all these years. "I'll not be the one you'll want to be telling your plans to.." She chimed in. "My job was to meet you, make sure the city stayed safe and bring that back if this turned out to be the real deal." Her head tilted in the direction of the wagon. Kit nodded her head in agreement. "It'll be Jack you're wantin' to talk to, if you've got plans to work or do anythin' on the city turf.." she added. For the first time Danny spoke, "And that's pretty much the whole damned East side..cept for the train station and the tradepost.." he growled, just in case they were of the impression that any of that expanse was really not 'home' to the city dwellers. "City just kept the beasts off our back." It had been a fall back and safe zone for them all. Mara glanced over Danny's way and withheld a sigh. It was a strange new time, and a strange new world. Change was coming, and some would take it better than most. When she spoke again, it was quieter, almost wistful. "Jack'll make sure they're all right, Danny. Who knows..maybe we can finally get out of the damned ground..Enjoy the sun without looking over our shoulder someday. Change might be a good thing." Danny only grunted in reply, and folded his arms again. Over by the wagon Dax had spent a few long moments nosing though the weight of supplies. Some of the items, he didn't think he'd even ever seen, before. "S'good.." He answered shortly. "Strange, some.. but good. We'll find a way to use em.." Ahab's words teased something of a memory in his mind and a brow went up as he turned dark eyes toward the man. "You the rabbit?" Damn. That was what they had taken to calling the invisible digger of the holes. "Broke my leg on a run one time in one of them holes, showed up in the damdest places." There was a hint of admiration in his gaze then. Surviving as long as he had with only holes for cover, spoke to something special. "Should come by sometimes, there's a few as'll be glad to know who it was this whole time." Mara had made up her mind. "We'll take the wagon..You'll have to take your business to Jack. Whatever he says'll go." She glanced over to the wagon. "Kit and Dax'll ride with you. Danny and I've got business before we head back.." Not that she thought Danny wanted to be around them very much at the moment anyways. "Kit'll see you get to Jack.." Her gun shifted onto her opposite shoulder, and it seemed Mara had decided the conversation was over, for the moment.
Croix was pleased at how well that had gone, and she offered them an accepting nod with a smile. Looking to Ahab, she said, "Up t'you if you wanna come along. Ah'd sure appreciate your company on the way back, but Ah know you have things t'do. If you decide t'hang back, Ah'll manage." That was all she'd say about it as she made for the wagon and made herself at home at the reins. She'd wait for Kit and Dax to find a secure spot on the wagon, and whether Ahab decided to stay or join, the wagon would be off shortly for the city.
Ahab offered the large man a bit of a wry grin, at that. "Sorry m'holes caused y'trouble. But...mm." He looked to Croix. Maybe he'd come along, for now. He'd have to check up on his little plan afterwards, but...it'd be a nice break. "Sure, what the hell." With that, he was making his way to the wagon to pull himself onto the side of it, holding on to a handle and quite secure. Maybe the East was picking up. If only a little.