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Frontier Town Drungfield's Remedies

Drungfield read over her book as Wes thought, and sniffed with what might have been amusement at his comment on Lucien.

"Mechanic?" she said, looking up again. "You're a mechanic, son? We've got a lot of demand for those, as it happens. Not a lot of expertise this far west, but plenty of modern machinery and devices and whatnot that always seem to need repairing."

She sniffed again, this time with disapproval.

"Don't much care for the things. But you could ask around at the rail site, the south side's printing presses, old Alejandro at the tinker shop does a lot of gadgetry, sometimes well-to-do visitors have 'motor-ificated wagons' or whatever they're called. Motorised carriages. Foul-smelling contraptions. Wouldn't catch me in one."
Well, at least he had options. That was a relief. He let himself relax a little with an exhale. “Sounds like that’s the next place to be, then.”

He slid gingerly off the table, pleasantly surprised that his leg was already feeling significantly better. She hadn’t been kidding about healing fast. He looked at her again; she was already returning to her book, a clear dismissal.

“Thank you, again. I really mean that.” He paused. Screw it, he might as well run those stupid errands, if only to find out what the hell a “mystery dungeon” was supposed to be. That, and he hated being indebted to people. Especially a stranger.

“I’ll be back in a few days,” he promised. “Let me know if there’s anything I need to do or prepare in the meantime.”
"Glad to hear it."

Drungfield gave Wes a stiff nod, which from her was most certainly a gesture of modest approval.

"And, mm, good luck with looking for mechanistic work, or whathaveyou," she said as she returned to her reading, adjusting her glasses again. "...It was nice meeting you, Wes."

If memory served, Wes hadn't actually given his name.

Ch01: Spooky Medicine Mon meets Astrid
Ghaspius grumbled as he rubbed away the sleepiness out of his eyes. Now he knew how Roya felt in the mornings. It wasn't his fault that he had been up late trying to stay in the Square in case anyone else he knew needed to be caught up. And also to process the extreme reactions the others at the Square had the night before. Stress demanded thought, and thought demanded time.

The Misdreavus let out a long yawn as he tried to shake off those thoughts. Thoughts also weighed a person down, and all he wanted to do was float freely that day. Thankfully, the mindlessly mindful task before him of taking inventory was just the right repetitiveness to get lost in.

The ghost perhaps got a bit too into his work as he didn't seem to notice anyone coming in. A bit of a problem since Drungfield had been out on an errand and he had been left to write down any requests for when she returned.
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Astrid's head hung at a tilt, paw to her chin. Why she'd come here next in her aimless journey to find nothing in particular was beyond her; maybe it was the dim lighting allowing her eyes some rest from the beating sun outside, the magnetism of desaturated colors peeking through the blinds, or the fringes of a reputation she'd gathered about the place. Maybe it was the allure of a new word -- "Apothecary" -- on a sign outside, contrasting with the otherwise blunt drawling of the townsfolk's dialect. Astrid often found herself in bizarre places like this, places that seemed almost like they didn't belong. So she'd invited herself inside.

"'Real medicine doesn't taste sweet', huh?" she said slowly, staring at another sign hanging over the central desk. It was more of an observation than a question directed at the Misdreavus occupying it.
Said Misdreavus soared up towards the ceiling with a start as he let out a yelp of surprise. Thankfully, it seemed he phased partially through the ceiling rather than smashing his head through it. After a moment, the ghost turned around and peeked his head out. "You know, I'm usually the one doin' the spooking," he commented with a chuckle before fully emerging back out.

"It's the doc's saying. Personally, I think you can make medicine tasty with the right alchemy! But you'd need lots of ingredients that I don't think she can really get 'round these parts." Ghaspius waved a tassel dismissively as he floated down to Astrid's level. "So, what'd you need then? Some ice packs? Got a bit of a cough? Maybe some water?"

He tilted his head a bit trying to gauge the icepix before him. He had an inkling that she might not have been from around town, but wasn't certain and didn't want to be rude.
Astrid almost waved him off, but reconsidered. "Water'd be nice, actually. Thanks. But um, otherwise I'm fine, I think."

She sought something in the room to fix her eyes on, settling on one of the berry sacks hanging from the ceiling, between moments of looking at the Misdreavus so she could maintain the correct ratio of eye-contact-to-no-eye-contact during their conversation. It only occurred to her now how odd it was to enter the doctor's office just to say 'what's up'.

But as she got to rambling, she stumbled into legitimate reasons. "...I'm one of those... newcomers. You might've read about them in the papers? There was that article with the, uh, the front picture... Nova was his name. I don't know him that well -- don't know any of them well -- but the article was pretty on point for what someone native to here would reasonably know. And, I dunno. Guess I was exploring around and wanted to know what kind of problems people are dealing with when they enter a place like this. Compared to... where I'm from." She blinked. "Oh, um, I'm Astrid by the way. Nice to meet you. Did'ya grow up in Frontier Town?"
Ghaspius nodded as he fetched a glass and floated over towards a small barrel. It was always a pain to haul the big lug, but it was necessary to get it freshly filled every morning. "Heard of 'em? Sure have," he said with a slight bounce to his voice as he popped open the lid. "That Nova guy though is a bit of a stick in the mud though, ain't he?" After getting the glass filled to a reasonable amount, he closed the lid. "Had a bit of a heated talk with him 'bout the Gala — just last night, in fact. But it ain't no thang. Think he's just got a rough upbringing."

The Misdreavus placed the glass on the counter and chuckled. "You know, you could probably make it nice and cool all on your own."

He smiled. "Mighty fine to meetcha, Astrid. Name's Ghaspius. And that's one noble reason to visit a place like this. I can respect it." He tugged on his scarf. "'Fraid I can't help much on that one though; I only just recently got hired on account of having arrived to Forlas not too long ago myself."
Astrid nodded along until--

"--Ohh. Oh." The calculus started calculus'ing in her head. "You haven't just... heard of them, you're one of them. One of us, I should say. S-sorry, I guess I didn't recognize you! There were so many I guess I didn't spot you at first, ahah..."

She grabbed the glass of water and, with a grateful nod, cupped her tongue and breathed cool air into it. The surface crystallized and then broke apart again as she took a big gulp.

Something gave her pause. More calculus ensued.

"'Gala'? What about it?" She thought Gerome might've mentioned something like that, but with her imperfect memory she wasn't sure.
Ghaspius smiled in response to her first conclusion. "Nah, you don't gotta apologize; there's a lot of people from outside to go around. Makes you wonder if we could form our own guild just on sheer numbers."

He winced slightly as Astrid make her own ice, but let out a light sigh of relief at her care. Just a bit too much frost and there might've been a few cracks on that glass.

"Surprised ya haven't heard. Gimme a moment, I think I got something..." He floated over behind the counter where he had stashed a couple of his personal effects — namely papers he collected from around town. "Here ya go, chief. Give it a nice gander."

Ghaspius gave her about a minute to read over the poster before speaking up again. "According to the others, the mayor and some rich big shots from eastern Commonwealth are gonna be attending. Planning on taking the land or something or another.

"Real interesting part though is that some of us got handed tickets from Sonora of the Las Picaras gang. You seen their posters around?" He gave a meek smile. He hoped to see what Astrid's baseline know-how was before moving on.
Soirée. Another unfamiliar word. Fascinating. Context clues were her friend on this one, though.

"I'm out of the loop," Astrid said sheepishly as she returned the poster. "I guess... I wanted to get a taste of my surroundings first and got a little lost in that. Oops."

She moved to balance against a wall--or what she thought was a wall--and nearly fell straight through a curtain with nothing behind it. She stiffened and caught herself instead, deciding that standing up straight was acceptable after all.

"...Ugh, I actually kind of hate it," she admitted, more serious now. "I've never even heard of this bandit gang. Are they, I mean--are they friendly? They gave y'all tickets?"
If Ghaspius was offended, he certainly didn't look the part. He just chuckled and floated along. "I ain't one for fancy dances for wealthy negotiations myself. But apparently, it's caught the eye of that cool cat." He shrugged with his tassels. "Now, just 'cause someone asked all nicely that we 'go in and provide a distraction' for them don't mean I'm suddenly on board. Petty grudges ain't my thing."

His own expression turned serious. "But I do have a problem when someone's freedom to live is taken away over those petty grudges." He looked out towards the door. "See, the posters say, 'Dead or Alive', but some folks talked to the mayor. 'Alive' in the case of that gal and her crew means 'lined up for execution'."

He let out a sigh. "Worse yet, sounds like some of our own got roped into helping the mayor out. Now, I don't wanna judge no one for a situation we've only got some dubious info on," he said as his gaze steeled, "but even I know you don't steal a life for someone trying to steal stuff. It just ain't right."
Astrid wanted to clarify that she hated being out of the loop, not so much the Gala poster--but such was the nature of conversation sometimes. And she kind of agreed anyway.

"See, the posters say, 'Dead or Alive', but some folks talked to the mayor. 'Alive' in the case of that gal and her crew means 'lined up for execution'."

Astrid shook her head sharply and with hardly any torque, almost in a twitching motion. "Sorry, just, taking a moment to piece this together... they're going to kill them? Why?" Ghaspius had already answered that of course, so she continued through her bewilderment. "I mean, okay. Backing up to the 'distraction' part. If they're already wanted dead or as dead-'mon-walking, sh-shouldn't we be helping them get to safety?"

A thought caught up to Astrid as soon as the words left her mouth: Where would they even take them that was safe? They'd been residents of Forlas for mere days; it's not like they'd know of some super secret hideaway.

"Fuck," she cursed under her breath, eyeing the floorboards with newfound ferocity. "Fuck. I really can't escape this shit, can I."
"They ain't been caught before, and I don't hear any townsfolk ratting 'em out even when they're openly talking to outsiders," Ghaspius mused as he tilted his head — or rather, his entire body — from side-to-side. "I think they're at least out of harm's way without us interfering when it's just the day-to-day."

Eventually, he turned fully upside down. "But there's one cliff of a difference between 'scampering around home' and 'marching right into the drapion's den'. Figuratively speaking."

Astrid's unusual reaction gave his wayward wandering pause. Ghaspius floated a bit closer. "Y'all doing okay there, groovy gal?"
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Astrid was still for a moment before closing her mouth and breathing a subdued laugh through her nose. "I was just real optimistic about this place, is all," she said. "Should've known better."

Ghaspius had turned himself upside-down. Compelled, Astrid rolled onto her back and let her tails splay across the floor, where she stared at the cracks in the ceiling and clicked her tongue in rhythm until rattling off-- "How are they gonna execute them and make a show of it anyway? The gallows are torched." A long beat passed. "...And what do the townsfolk think of that?" She had a feeling the Commonwalth wasn't trying to be a democracy, but she knew damn well public opinion still held a silent weight.
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"S'not all bad. You should've seen the place we landed in. Little Scriven's got lots of nice people from what I could tell," Ghaspius reassured as he floated down (or 'up' in his case) to get closer to Astrid. "Way I see it, you make your own little corner of good, genuine folk. Give 'em the medicines and care they need, and they'll help out others too. That corner gets bigger and bigger, and then..."

He made a 'bwooooosh' noise with his mouth to simulate an explosion. "You got a world of good that makes the bad look like what it is. No shady business, only fun spooks."

The Misdreavus returned to reality for a brief moment as he nodded along with the icepix. "Bit of a scary question to be asking common folk stuff like that, ain't it?" He reasoned as his excuse for not actually gathering information like he should have. Even so, he frowned at his next words. "Don't be too surprised by what the ruthless can do, though. Take away a claw and they'll make a knife. Take away the knife and they'll use a club. Take away the club and they'll use the floorboards. It's just how they've been raised."
Astrid allowed herself a giggle at the 'explosion.' "I hope we can make this world like that. Isn't it a nice thought? I hope... why we were brought here is truly related to that. If this is going to be my home for a while, I'd love nothing more than to make it so."

Steady silence. Then Astrid's face twisted into something of raw horror. Frozen solid like a statue, she stared into the distance a million miles away--before in an instant she was suddenly back to normal, face only twitching slightly to hint that something was ever wrong.

Eager to keep the talk moving, she sat up to stare at Ghaspius with conviction and continued-- "Right. Um, so. I don't know the half of who these bandits are or why they... are called that, but I do know I'm not much for legalism. Not when priorities have advanced so far beyond hunting and gathering, which, I mean--" she threw a paw towards the doorway, gesturing to the hustle and bustle of a typical Frontier Town afternoon, "--yeah. Whatever's being planned, I'm willing to help do what's needed to... to save lives."

Whether that actually meant helping the bandits, she wasn't sure. But at least she knew who she wasn't going to help.
Ghaspius, sadly, was the type to also just stare off in the distance and go silent mid-conversation. He didn't make much of Astrid's strange reaction; he just did a few idle mid-air spins.

When comet Astrid returned to planet Forlas, Ghaspius stopped his orbit. "Me neither. Much rather judge someone on their character, not their career. Just like how some of the best cooks out there are in the shadiest of places."

The Misdreavus finally righted himself. "I don't have the full details... or a ticket, really — the Meowth's got those — but I wanna try something. Gonna see if on the day of the Gala I can intercept the gal and try to convince her not to go all-in. 'Live to fight another day' and all. You might have some luck talkin' with the others 'bout intricate plans though, if that's your fancy."

His eyes darted over to the door, and he offered a tassel to help Astrid up. "Drungfield might come back at any moment, so how 'bout we talk about something lighter? Like... what'd you used to do before all this? I'm curious."
Astrid grabbed his tassel and pulled herself upright with a gracious smile. "Thanks. I'm a... an explorer," she said, hesitating as if sifting through several possible answers. "Was in charge of covering an entire coastline for an entire continent, plus everything fifty-plus miles inland straddling a troublesome range of dunes and hills. I'd chart things I found and then go back to base and make maps. Mm, I'd get to doodle all day, and it actually helped people... was really nice while it lasted~"

Her face tightened up a bit. "Diplomat as well. That one had its own unique set of challenges, and wasn't as fun, but y'know. It was necessary."

She glanced back at the desk Ghaspius had been working at; sprawled across its surface were a mixture of items and paperwork. He'd been taking stock, perhaps?

"Were you a practitioner?" she wagered a guess before raising a playful eyebrow. "Or a chemist, maybe? Seems like not just anyone would come to this joint looking for an impromptu job. Is it fun?"
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Ghaspius's mouth formed an 'o' shape as he listened on wonder. "Over eighty kilometers worth of land you mapped? That's incredible!" He said with a slight boisterousness to his laugh. "Well, hey, I don't doubt that those skills might come handy again nowadays. Common knowledge don't seem too common 'round these parts, 'specially since it's got Mystery Dungeons like back home, too."

He crossed his tassels and hummed. "You don't say? Maybe you could diplomacy up a solution to this Sonora problem then, eh?" He gave a smile to indicate his jest. "Actually, that town I was talkin' about — Scriven — is filled with writers and book folk. Maybe they'd appreciate a picture book or two?"

His head trailed Astrid's eyes as he leaned back a bit. "Huh? Oh, yeah," he said before looking back, straight into Astrid's eyes with a stern look as he insisted, "I was an Alchemist. A brewer. A medicine mon. Whatever you want to call it. Long as we're clear it's Alchemy, not magic, not 'chemistry'." He made quotes with his tassels.

And just as quickly as his seriousness arrive did it trail off as his expression brightened again. "Mostly just do clerical work 'round these parts though. Hopin' to one day get myself all setup again once we've gotten settled in a bit more and got a bit more capital. Brewin' was the best job I ever had back home."
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