The team returns to Brookstone after their adventure in the city of Townsville.
The train ride was relatively uneventful. Colette teaches Kid a new spell. Warrick writes up a rough draft of their last adventure while Gabrielle watches him from the opposite side of the train, shooting him a look that is nothing short of deadly. Cecilia and Royce do what all good mad scientists do — tinker and strike up conversation about various mechanical doodads. Richard is too old for this shit and decides to rest. Two hours later the train pulls to a stop and the group gathers their things, exiting the train and beginning the walk home.
Something still seems to be bothering Richard and he beckons to Gabrielle. She slows to match his pace and the two linger behind the rest of the group for a moment.
“Just so I’m sure, all of that back there did happen. I didn’t hallucinate that, right?” Richard asks, uncertainty and mild disbelief heavy in his voice. After all, he’d seen plenty of strange things in his lifetime, but that? That was something else.
“I’m pretty sure I threw a bed at somebody,” she replies dismissively.
“… You threw a… you threw a be —”
“I was a little upset.”
That’s all Richard needs to hear and he files this away as one more reason he should not get on the nun’s bad side.
Colette manages to overhear the last bit of the conversation and she looks over, eyes wide. “You threw a bed at him?”
Gabrielle looks over, brows furrowed. “Well, it was more like I flipped it, but…” she pauses, trying to remember the details of her encounter. “Well, maybe I threw it. I don’t really remember.”
The lack of clarity doesn’t seem to bother Colette in the least. In fact, she looks downright thrilled to hear that Gabrielle caused physical harm to their captor and a wide grin spreads across her face.
After a few minutes Neil strolls up to Richard, clapping his hands together with a lazy smile on his face. “Well, if I’m gonna be all, you know, law folky in this town I should probably get to the sheriff’s office so I can start settin’ up camp and makin’ myself at home.”
Richard’s still a bit drowsy from the train ride and he takes a moment to get his bearings, but eventually nods and motions for Neil to follow him.
The rest of the group begins to go their separate ways. Kid tucks his book under his arm, calling out to Neil before he heads home. “Try not to break anything.”
The whiny exasperation in Neils voice is painfully obvious as he responds. “Oh come oooon. When have you ever known me to break things?”
“All the time,” Kid snaps back, completely deadpan, without a moments hesitation
“Just because there was one time when I accidentally knocked over one of your candles doesn’t mean — "
“It was a very important candle. They’re all important candles and you can’t just… you can’t just knock one over without telling me!” Kid’s voice began to rise, straining a bit as if the memory was causing him physical pain.
“I apologized like fifty times—”
Warrick looks somewhere between irritated and amused. He appeared to be slightly curious, but there was a lingering smirk in his voice. “… How many candles were there?”
Neil taps his chin in thought. “Well, there were eight.”
“And then there were seven. Seven!” Kid cried.
Richard puts his hand up to keep Kid from continuing his tirade. “Just do me a favor and don’t burn the place down, alright Neil?”
Neil shrugs and nods his head as Richard finally begins to lead him and Mr.Brown down to the sheriff’s office while Colette and the Baron go to the inn to set themselves up there for the time being. Kid is still seething, muttering and whining about how hideous and horrible it was to have only seven candles so Warrick does one of the only things he can do in situations like this — try not to laugh and escort Kid back home.
The next few days pass without incident. Tired of seeing Richard getting positively riddled with bullets, Cecilia takes it upon herself to engineer a bulletproof vest for him. The design is simple and efficient and the finished product is well crafted. She brings it to his house, holding it out in front of her with her eyes cast towards the ground murmuring a quiet little “I made this for you,” before darting off back to her lab once more to begin studying the fungi the group previously discovered in the mines.
Knowing that the fungi was somewhat supernatural in nature, Kid was curious about it too. When Cecilia was nowhere to be found, he asked Gabrielle about her whereabouts. The nun directed him to her lab where Kid found her already hard at work.
He knocks politely before entering and Cecelia looks up sharply at the noise. “Ah! I see you’re already working. You wouldn’t mind if I joined you, would you? I’ve been wondering about that myself.”
Cecilia ducks her head down, a bright blush coloring her cheeks. She mumbles something, stammering meekly as she huddles down into her chair. She’s not quite able to voice a “get out” or a “not at all” or anything in between. Kid assumes she doesn’t mind and takes a seat next to her.
Together they discover that there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the mold itself. It’s not a new kind nor does it seem to have any special properties, however Kid notices something that Cecelia does not — it looks just as healthy as it did the day they were in the mine. It hasn’t wilted nor has it lost any of its bright glow. The best he can surmise is that this mold has absorbed energy from the Haunting Grounds which has given this ordinary fungi its permanent glow.
After buying herself a holster for the gun she picked up in Townsville, Gabrielle busies herself by working at the farm — a deed that everyone was grateful for considering it meant she wouldn’t playing harmonica for a few hours. Actually no, not playing, attempting to play. Simply playing would imply that she knew how and if a person were to hear the squealing metallic twangs and breathy twinges she made on the instrument they would certainly not call it playing by any stretch of the means.
As the next few days pass, Richard becomes increasingly concerned about what should be done with the gold bars that the party is now in possession of. He decides to call a meeting at his house to discuss their next course of action. Once everyone arrives everyone does a quick sweep of the surrounding area just to make sure that no one was listening in on the conversation.
“Oh no. This… this is awful,” Kid whispers.
Everyone except Kid, anyway. All he seems to be capable of focusing on is… Richard. It’s clear he’s trying to stay quiet, but the boy seems to be deeply unsettled. His hands start to shake as his anxiety becomes worse, his mouth forming a thin, strained line. He takes a strained breath and bites his lip, trying to stay calm despite everyone ounce of his being telling him to do otherwise.
“Um… are you ok?” Gabrielle asks quietly.
“What are you going on about now? What’s awful?” Richard asks, a little tentatively.
Kid doesn’t say anything. Just keeps staring. His hands are shaking now.
Richard glances around at the group, unsure of what to make of Kid’s strange behavior. Kid’s still staring. Richard stares right back before hesitantly asking, “You’re not drunk, are you?”
It elicits an immediate response from Kid. He straightens up in his chair, shaking his head feverishly. “W-w-what? Oh. Oh, n-no. No. No. I’m not. It’s just—“ He fidgets uncomfortably, eyes darting back and forth between Richard and the floor.. Another tense moment passes and it seems like that’s Kid’s breaking point.
“— Your eyebrows!” He is suddenly at the edge of his seat, eyes wide. “It’s your eyebrows! Do you have any idea—?! Do you even realize?! They’re uneven! Your left brow is far bushier than your right!”
A moment of stunned silence passes, every member of the party has their eyes fixed squarely on Kid. The disbelief on their faces was nearly palpable.
Gabrielle was the first to break the silence, “… What?”
Richard opens his mouth to speak, but once again finds himself at a loss for words. On the other hand Kid seems to have no shortage of them.
“Just… just please let me fix them for you! It won’t take too long and then they’ll be even and everything will be fine. I can fix them, really! If you give me a moment I can run back to my house and get some tweezers and—”
“Keep your hands to yourself or we’re going to have an incident.”
Gabrielle reiterates, “… What?”
“But… but you don’t understand! You just…” the horrible sight of Richard’s eyebrows has sent Kid over the edge. He buries his face in his hands, shaking his head. “It’s awful!”
“… I feel like I should be offended,” Richard mutters.
Kid sinks down in his chair almost like he was willing it to swallow him whole, desperately trying not to cry.
Richard gives Kid one last look. “Moving along to the reason I called you all here,” he takes a gold bar out of the backpack by the side of his chair and puts it down on the table in front of everyone. “What should we do with these? It’s not like we can just cash these in—”
“HOW CAN YOU STAND THOSE EYEBROWS?!”
A moment of silence passes. Richard narrows his eyes. “Kid. Shut up. About. The eyebrows.”
Warrick reaches over, patting Kid on the back. “Kid, we’ll get through tonight. It’ll be ok, really.”
Kid’s eyes start to water as he shakes his head. “No! No it won’t, they’re terrible!”
Richard sighs, exasperated. “Then don’t look at them. Just look away.”
“I… I can’t! They’re there! I know they’re there!”
Gabrielle covers her mouth with her hand trying to stifle her laughter, but it’s not working very well.
Richard takes a deep breath. The look on his face is a bit distant. Almost like he’s contemplating how his life turned out this way with some kid in his house screaming about the state of his eyebrows. He shakes his head at Kid. “You are the strangest person I have ever met in my life.”
“And you have the most hideous eyebrows I have ever seen in my life!”
“Ok, ok, calm down. Calm down,” Gabrielle sputters, still laughing. “We can fix his eyebrows later.”
“What no! I can’t calm down! How can I calm down? No, a better question is how can you stand looking at them and be so calm!”
“Did my eyebrows shoot your dog or something?!”
“They might as well have!”
Gabrielle tries to stop snickering. “The gold is a little more important than Richard’s eyebrows right now, Kid.”
“No, this is a much more pressing concern!” He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself down by thinking of all the wonderful, beautiful, perfectly symmetrical things there are in the world. “Alright, just… can you please just tell me I can fix them later?”
Richard doesn’t give him a chance to take a breath before he answers. “No.”
“Richard, we’re not going to get anywhere if this keeps up. Just tell him he can fix them later,” Gabrielle mutters.
“I can fix them myself.”
The small amount of calm Kid had managed to gather vanishes in an instant, his voice shrill and desperate. “No! You can’t! You’ll make it worse! Just let me do it!”
Richard slumps forward in his chair, rubbing his temples. “Alright, maybe later. Maybe.”
That’s enough to calm Kid down a little, but he still looks anxious. Gabrielle takes a moment to covertly examine Richard’s eyebrows herself and sees that Kid was right. The left was bushier than the right. She brings a hand up to her mouth to hide her smile.
The group continues to discuss what to do with the bars and eventually Kid outright asks why anyone would want to get rid of them at all. After all, they are perfectly symmetrical. Ignoring Kid’s question, the group lays out their options. Cecelia suggests cutting up the bars into small pieces and Richard suggests multiple drop offs to make it less suspicious, but in the end they just seem to be going around in circles.
After a few minutes of that, Kid finally speaks up again and suggests going to a large, national bank that wouldn’t have a problem taking the gold bars and cashing them out. Richard looks skeptical and voices his concern, but is quieted when Kid reminds him that it’s a bank and they don’t have to take all they money out at once. After his outburst earlier, everyone seems a bit surprised to hear such a sensible plan of action from Kid, but they all agree that this is the best way to handle the situation.
A few days later the relative peace of the town is broken. Just outside of Gabrielle and Cecelia’s window something can be heard. Cecelia peeks outside only to find that legion of mechanical spiders with flame throwers
are quickly approaching their house. The sight renders Cecelia nearly speechless. She ducks down, stammering until she finally manages to whisper, “Flamethrowers!
She finds Gabrielle, grabs her by her collar and drags her to the window whispering, “Flamethrowers!”
Gabrielle can’t seem to hear her though. She furrows her brow, confused. “What?”
“Cecilia I can’t understand a word you’re—”
Gabrielle’s eyes widen at the sudden outburst, finally looking out the window. She doesn’t seem too bothered by the mechanical death spiders and for a moment she keeps looking between the spiders and Cecelia before finally speaking.
“… What did you do?”
Cecelia shakes her head fervently. “N-No! They’re not mine!”
“They’re not yours?!” A bit of panic seeps into the nuns’ voice as Cecelia keeps shaking her head. “We need to get out of here.”
Cecelia puts up a finger, running downstairs to grab Raphael and a backpack. As soon as she’s back upstairs Gabrielle scoops her up under her arm and jumps out the back window.
Across the street Richard, Warrick, and Kid were already gathered. They were in the middle of a conversation concerning Richard’s eyebrows (well it was more of an argument and Kid was definitely losing) when they saw the two burst out of their back window. Their jaws nearly drop as they watch the two girls approach. Richard automatically pulls out his rifle.
Gabrielle manages a few words, “Mechanicalspiderswithflamethrowers!!”
Kid stares in mild shock, “What?”
She repeats herself, slower this time. “Mechanical spiders with flamethrowers!”
Kid gives her a look that makes it seem like he’s wondering what kind of drugs she’s on. However, Richard doesn’t seem too bothered by her statement as evidenced by the crystal clear click coming from his rifle.
Warrick furrows his brow like he’s still trying to make sense of what she said, “ Can you… repeat that?”
Gabrielle turns towards Warrick and starts even slower this time as she carefully puts Cecelia down, “Mechanical. Spiders. With. Flamethrowers are about to burn down the town.”
Automatic gunfire sounds and the group almost immediately springs into action and heads towards the sound of combat. Upon arrival they see an interesting sight. There are the mechanical spiders, but also a group of men, one of whom is dressed in a suit of medieval armor.
The man in the armor turns and plunges his sword into the chest of one of the others near him. It soon becomes clear that it’s not any ordinary sword – oh no, it’s electrified. The man he speared convulses as electricity surges through his body and crumples to the ground in a heap. Between the armored man and the rest of the group, they make quick work of the mechanical spiders and the other group of men.
By the end of it everyone is staring warily at this newcomer who just took down most of the intruders on his own, unsure if they should be worried that he’ll turn on them next. The armored man relaxes now that his enemies have been vanquished just as Neil comes running up them with a huge grin on his face.
“Ho-ly shit, man! I did not think that the bunch of nerds who came into town yesterday were gonna do a bunch o’shit like this! But it’s always the nerds. You never see it comin’.”
Richard and Kid look over at him, speaking in unison, “What?”
“Oh yeah! I’ve been keepin’ tabs on who all’s been comin’ in and out of town, right? Well, last night a whole bunch of nerds came into town and I was all like oh well it’s just a bunch of nerds they’re probably just passin’ through or doing nerdy shit. Maybe there was a rock or somethin’ nearby they wanted to study, but all of a sudden it turns out they had death spiders. What the hell was up with that, man?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Sheriff. Why don’t you go ask them?” Kid says a bit sarcastically, nodding to one of the men they managed to capture.
“Oh right! I should probably go arrest him, huh? I’ll be right back!”
The man in armor has been watching them all up until this point and as Neil goes to take the captured man prisoner he slowly approaches the group, hands raised over his head to show that he means them no harm.
Richard narrows his eyes, still suspicious. “You with the sword. Who the hell are you? I’ve never seen anyone fight like that before.”
“Why thank you, my good sir, I do pride myself on my swordsmanship,” the man starts as he puts a hand over his stomach, bowing politely. “I am Sir Maximilian the third, knight errant and scientist.”
Warrick and Kid exchange hesitant pleasantries with Max, everyone else following suit.
“I had assumed the person these men were after were defenseless, but it seems I was mistaken. However, I’m sure this battle would have been much harder for you had I not intervened.”
“Well, considering you offed three people in the same time it took me to take two shots, I’d sure say so,” Richard says as he begins reloading his rifle. “Alright let me get this straight. You said your name is Sir Maximilian the third?”
“That is correct, good sir.”
Gabrielle shakes her head, brows furrowed as she bluntly asks, “Where did you even come from?”
Neil, still busy with the prisoner, shouts over to them. “Oh yeah! That guy was with the bunch of nerds that came in last night!”
Cecelia tilts her head curiously, “You were with these guys?”
“I tagged along with them when I heard they were going to try and capture or kill somebody— a young woman, I believe it was— and it seemed unfair, unfitting and almost devious for them be doing so.”
Max was about to continue, but Cecelia interrupts. “Do you know who they were working for?”
“I do not know his name, but he was a very charming Asian man, I believe.”
A bit more discussion followed as the group learned more about Max. They find out, to Gabrielle’s clear distress, that he is a follower of the Pasta God. A heated conversation of religion erupts between the two. Worried that a legitimate fight was about to break out, Kid convinces Gabrielle to come with him back to his shop to get the custom holster he made for her. Anything to get the two away from each other.
Neil finishes patching up the prisoner and makes it known that he’s headed back to the jail, expecting everyone to follow him. The group, now +1 Max and -1 Gabrielle, trail after him.
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT.