Where were we? Oh, yeah – Danny and Ronda riding off into the distance to chase down Black Bart (reminder: placeholder names). While they’re off bounding towards their payday, this is a good time for our characters to learn a little more about each other, don’t you think? We find out (through a glance at fortunately exposed skin) that Ronda was a pit fighter – we see the scar for one of the cities on her shoulder. Danny asks about that and she says that she did the circuit for a few years, got all the way to the top and quit – there was nothing left to prove. Danny asks why didn’t she retire with the money she earned? “What money? After paying for the managers, the ring-geld and the apothecary, I had enough to either get myself a few days in a wayhouse or a really good meal.” “Which did you take?” “It was a good meal.” It wasn’t that Ronda was a bad manager of money; it’s just that a lot of people got ahead of her and her money. Now she’s here, but she’s not upset about it. She likes what she does for a living – she’s bringing in the worst of the worse and getting paid pretty good for the effort. Danny asks about her parents – surely they could put her up for a few days, or at least let her borrow some money when times get lean. Ronda shakes her head – Dad’s barely getting by on his own as a teamster and her mother was Rahsaya-ridden, which is why she is one of the Touched and didn’t really hang around all that much – Ronda pretty much raised herself until she was put in one of the fight houses. Ronda is doing well for herself – she doesn’t go hungry, she can get a decent room or pay for a good lay when she wants it. Life isn’t all that bad.
Danny says his life was quiet – his brother is a Warden (that’s Bruce for all you home-gamers) and he works in a counting house – and he just tries to get by. Ronda looks at him with a little bit of contempt and pity. “Getting by and living are two different things, and one is definitely not the way to live.” As they ride it starts getting dark and Ronda says that they’ll have to camp out and try to get the jump on Black Bart. She gets out her sleeping roll and ties the horse off to a tree. Danny asks what he can do. Ronda points to the horse and tells him to get in – he’ll be safe from any roaming wraiths and can keep an eye on her while she sleeps. Danny asks what will happen when he falls asleep – he’s not going to sleep since he’s a spirit and the horse will be safe. What if a wraith gets a hold of the horse’s spirit? Well, it’s a horse and easily replaced so long as a certain someone stays in the horse until she has ridden away on the good one. “Sorry, but I saw my body.” Ronda settled down for sleep. Danny settles down for watching everything from the inside of a horse. The night creeps along and while Danny doesn’t get sleepy, he does get bored and he lets his attention wander around. He can’t go anywhere since the horse is tied to the tree. He could slip out of the horse, but that would leave him vulnerable to the wraiths. So, he looks around, and out of the corner of his (or rather, the horse’s) eye, he sees a rainbow flash.
Ronda’s spirit – a multicolored strobe of lights – is rising out of her own body. It hovers over her for a second before shooting up into the air. Danny is dumbstruck by the sight, Danny barely notices the wraith as it creeps up to Ronda’s body. When he does see it, he rushes right out of the horse’s body and kicks him hard in the chin. Danny has about a second to realize that he did something brave, and then he remembers that he also did something stupid, as in getting out from under the cover of the horse. As he turns to run back, the wraith jumps on him and starts to eat him. Danny tries his best to get back inside the safety of the beast, but the wraith is not letting him go for anything. It clamps down on his arm and tries to pull him off balance. Danny hits it, but it is ineffective – remember, the wraiths or anything in the spirit world don’t feel pain – so he now just tries to get out from under it.
The multi-colored ball swoops back down, surrounding the wraith and dragging it off him. The wraith crumples and dissolves away into a pile of ash and wraith-flakes (just add milk!). The multicolored gas goes back into Ronda and she sits up. Danny asks what that was. Ronda says it’s one of her talents from being Touched – the Raysaya part of her can leave her body for extended periods of time and she was scouting out where Black Bart was holing up. She spotted him and was on her way back down to rest when she saw Danny doing his impression of a wraith chew-toy. She lies back down – she doesn’t do it that often, since it is fatiguing. She rolls over onto her side and thanks him for watching over her. Danny steps back into the horse and continues his vigil until the morning, but every now and then he steals a glance at her. In spite of the numerous scars, both trophies and occupational hazard-types, there is something pleasingly rough about her. She’s friendly, if a little uncouth for his tastes. Maybe it’s the circumstances he finds himself in…who knows?
OK – we’re still up to our hips in Act 2, but we’re at least getting to the halfway point of capturing Black Bart. If you have any questions, suggestions or cash – feel free to leave a comment.
Thank you for reading.