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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Dining Hall


A Murder of 'Krows
Heartache staff
Every morning, at the break of dawn, the kitchens of the Traveller's Haus would errupt with activity. Lively mornings were not only common but the status quo.

The labours and bounties from the kitchen were proudly displayed on the wooden tables of the breakfast halls, free to be taken and enjoyed by any hungry visitor. Though simple, it was difficult to deny both the charm and the taste of the food that was served. Ranging from simple bread, butter and berry jams to beans, scrambled eggs and sausage links (and all sorts of cheeses, of course), there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Maus travelled holding plates of food above their head onto the table through a small, makeshift bridge that lead from the serving hatch before they hopped onto the floor and took a pulley system up to the very same sill. Seats were scattered around the tables' perimetres, encouraging discussion between travellers. Beyond that, the room was sparcely decorated in favour of a larger space outside of a single, glass figurine roughly depicting a small-bodied pokémon with miniature wings and a large set of ears that formed a V-shape. It sat on one of the windowsills, allowing for the morning sunlight to glitter through its aged countenance.

Apparently, it was a symbol of luck, wishing the guests of the Haus a good day.

Ch01: The Politics of a Bounty
Bellatrix studied Sonora's wanted poster with an intent gaze over a platter of hash browns and sausages, rhythmically tapping her claw on its corner. Behind the feline's poster was the bounties for the rest of her gang to which she didn't place as much a stake on. There was little need for introduction to those who'd followed her from Sun Stone while any other curious passerby from their group was simply told that she'd gotten a new request and that she'd explain more in just a moment. She had been thinking over a few things, replaying the conversation with the mayor in her head several times to formulate her thoughts.

While they weren't required to even arrest them, just play the role of bouncer, it was clear that it had been an underlying prerogative and it was the best bounty Bellatrix had managed to come across thus far. On top of the pay she'd get from doing this job, she'd be in a very comfortable position for quite some time.

That led straight into her next line of reasoning. While there was little doubt regarding her distaste over Ignatius' character, there was no denying the practicality of remaining on his good side (the most obvious boon being that he was the one providing their shelter for some of the members by proxy of his son) and outright defying him felt like an instant ticket to a wanted poster and eventual trip to the none-of-her-business gallows.

Once she felt that enough had gathered, she looked up from the posters with a serious stare. "I get the impression that we will need to get ourselves on the same page regarding this matter as soon as possible," she began. "So, first and foremost, do you intend to keep your word to the mayor?"
Mhynt had been making her rounds at the time before realizing that there was a gathering at the Haus. She usually only returned occasionally to check in with her fellow Nexus travelers, but this felt different. More urgency was in the air.

Had she missed a dream?

"What is this?" Mhynt asked. "I just returned from an interview with the Gazette, by the way. Expect there to be some word of us... And hopefully good word, so they won't be too off-put by our strangeness."

She eyed the wanted poster.

"...Quite a high price," she remarked. "What is this one responsible for?"
Nova had walked in to simply get a thing or two. He was asked to help with a couple of things to keep the worksite secure at night. So, it was going to be back to the railyard for him. And it was much less embarrassing to simply stuff the food into the mask and have it serve as a makeshift plate of sorts than have people watching him.

But as he was getting the food he wanted, Nova heard footsteps. A bit of commotion. Then a statement about the mayor and... a price?

"Got work stuff," he mumbled, and headed for the entrance.
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Nip padded down for food, mouth stretched wide in a yawn. After so many nights struggling to sleep well, he'd caved and taken an afternoon nap. Now he was in the process of piling a plate high with nothing but meat when the gathering group caught his eye. He popped a sausage in his mouth, then wandered over to get a better look.

Tilting his head, he waited for the zorua to finish before chiming in. "I'm afraid you're going to have to fill me in on this one."
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By the time Archie made it back to the Haus, Bellatrix had already gotten herself set up with breakfast in the cafeteria. There, she had already been joined by the Treecko – Mhynt – as well as the strange masked chimera Archie still hadn’t gotten the name of – who seemed to be on their way out – and a Sneasel, though one that, like Bellatrix herself, looked nothing like the kind of Sneasels Archie was familiar with. So, he quickly busied himself with grabbing breakfast – eggs and sausage, toast with Chesto Berry jam (great for helping one wake up in the mornings!). The Oshawott then took the nearest open seat to Bellatrix, setting his plate down in front of him, and his hat off to the side of that.

“Certainly,” the Oshawott replied to the Zorua’s question, overheard as he was grabbing food, “but I don’t recall promising to do more than keep the gala free of bandits.”

The Oshawott rested his elbows on the table, like some kind of heathen, his gaze drifting from Mhynt to the Sneasel and back again, before quipping, in a dry, displeased tone, in answer to the Treecko’s question, “Highway robbery, for which the punishment is death.”
Nova froze mid-step. Either this oshawott was blowing smoke — hadn't he made some sort of scene berating someone else back in the Nexus? — or this was one of those types of places. Ripped right out of the kinds of movies that'd play on EV sets at ungodly hours when only the elderly or hospitalized were awake.

It wasn't worth entertaining, in Nova's opinion. Certainly not if it'd make him flake on work, costing him pay. And trust. He kept going.
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Bellatrix sighed. "Grand larceny and highway robbery, a step above petty thievery. The mayor of the town asked me and three others to act as guards to an upcoming gala and as you can imagine, this is who we'll be guarding it from," she explained. "Quite the pay too, much better than anything we can get at the moment, and claiming the bounty of Sonora and her gang's arrest would make for a nice bonus. Which is why I want to do just that."

She paused to take a bite of her hash before continuing. "But it's not just the pay. There is also the matter that there will always be someone else to come and claim it and therein lies the problem. As Mhynt has pointed out, this is not a small bounty and though it should be obvious given what we know of this world, the sensibilities of the law here are more archaic than what anyone here might be used to." She swivelled the posters around so that the gathered group could get a better look at them.

"With bounties this high, they mean 'dead' and if the bounty hunter isn't the one to do the honours..." She allowed a small, bitter smile to pull at the edges of her mouth. "Well, that's what the gallows are, or rather, were for."
Nothing in the marshmallow zorua's explanation gave Nova any reason to stop. Distant memories flickered in his mind. Wisps of blue light drifting into the red and purple heavens while others looking like him charged down the streets. A volcanic arcanine or a one-eye lucario telling him the orders were harsh but necessary for everyone's sake.

"The natives must be pretty weak here if they need to rely on something that dumb." Those wouldn't work on a significant chunk of pokémon, including more than a few of this group. "But leaning on death to enforce order means there are skeletons to drag out of the closet."

Having said his peace, Nova dipped his head down and departed. Some old-fashioned manual labor would undoubtedly take get those nauseating thoughts off his mind.
As the oshawott and zorua explained the situation, Nip narrowed his eyes dread forming a cold pit in his stomach. These were criminals. Supposedly. He shouldn't feel anything for them. And yet... Images of a mawile flashed in his mind.

He didn't realize he was baring his fangs. "Death? No, not interested. What if he wants to... Eat them or something."
Archie snorted, derisively, “Great pay, if you can handle the blood on your paws.”

Naturally, the Oshawott couldn’t know what was in the Zorua’s heart. Maybe she had some crazy plan in mind. Her species was known for its power over illusion, maybe she planned to use it in some crazy scheme to help the gang fake their own deaths. He’d like to think that, certainly, but he didn’t know for sure, so until he did, he had to play cautiously.

The strange chimera said their piece and departed, apparently not concerned enough about the potential miscarriage of justice to bother sticking around. The Sneasel, on the other hand, seemed to be leaning a little more towards Archie’s way of thinking.

“Just because something’s the law doesn’t mean it’s good or right,” the Oshawott sighed.
Corey had slipped into the breakfast hall at the same time as Archie, though he'd immediately gone to help himself to a meal whilst the others had started the discussion. He did his best to listen in, though it seemed like the group was already reaching the first hurdle, once again, the issue with the ever-present death penalty being in play. He and Archie had already had their own little discussion about this, so he knew where the Oshawott's views were in that field, and it sounded like the Sneasel in the room felt similar grievances toward such a punishment, though Bellatrix... Well it was hard to parse what she thought. It sounded like she was willing to go with the law as it was, yet there was also the lingering feeling that she had her own ideas in mind.

"So ah... let's say the gallows just never get fixed..." he suddenly piped up between bites. "Let's say something happens and it becomes unfeasible to put them back together or build new ones... Wouldn't the mayor be forced to reform the system somehow?" Perhaps that was idealistic, but, he couldn't help but at least throw out his two cents on the matter. After all, the biggest issue here was that no one wanted to just send every single bad egg out to be hanged.
For a brief moment, Bellatrix wondered what kind of world the chimera must have come from if crushing someone's windpipe was not enough to kill them but did not dwell seeing that it was tangential to the main point.

"Which is why it won't happen," she continued. "The observant among you may have noticed my usage of the past tense when referring to the gallows and indeed, if you look now, you'll find them scorched to the ground. The mayor seemed particularly sensitive about it when pressed meaning that its an insecurity and genuine spanner in his system, something we can and should take advantage of." She looked back over the posters thoughtfully. "The key thing here is to remain within the mayor's good graces. Ruining that would leave us in a far worse spot than we are now, meaning that if we wish to undermine him, we will need to do it in a more subtle way."

There was a brief moment of pause and suddenly, Bellatrix was gone. Instead, sitting on the edge of the table was Sonora herself, or at least a very close approximation of her, the only discrepancies being the fluffy white tail with a red tip and the disposition. "That leaves the first order to ensure that the gallows are not rebuilt in a functional state upon Sonora's apprehension," the 'floragato' added. The illusion traced a claw down the bridge of her nose. "As for why we should aim for their arrest, it's to minimize the risk of another hunter deciding to bring her in dead unless, of course, it's suddenly fine if someone else does it."
"So ah... let's say the gallows just never get fixed..." he suddenly piped up between bites. "Let's say something happens and it becomes unfeasible to put them back together or build new ones... Wouldn't the mayor be forced to reform the system somehow?"
"Doubtful," Nip replied. He stuffed another sausage in his mouth, chewing slowly to give himself time to think. To let him keep his tone in check. "If he wants them dead he'll find another way, or else make them 'disappear.'"

He sprang back a step, fur bristling when the zorua put up an illusion. Right. They could do that. He knew that all too well. A friendly one shouldn't spook him.

"It sounds to me like she needs to make herself scarce. Leave for greener fields. Though I doubt we'd have much luck of that."
The Oshawott scooped some egg onto a bit of toast and shoved the resulting mash into his maw, chewing thoughtfully while Bellatrix gave her explanation. Certainly, convincingly faking Sonora and her gang’s deaths would be the best possible outcome, and Archie was glad Bellatrix was at least broadly in agreement that death was too great a punishment for them. He did still have a few concerns, though.

“So, what are you thinking?” He asked, gesturing towards the Sneasel in agreement with his point, “I doubt the mayor is particularly picky. If the gallows aren’t ready, a bit of rope and a tall enough post to hang it from is all he really needs. If he’s this intent on seeing her dead, I don’t think he’ll much care if it by a snapped neck or a slow asphyxiation. So, he and his cronies need to be fully convinced the gallows are in working order.”

The Oshawott gave the Zorua-turned-Floragato a skeptical look, “How long can you maintain a convincing illusion?”

Maybe if they let the mayor repair the gallows and then destroyed them again somehow before the hanging? How would they go about that? Did they know anyone who could burn it down a second time? Maybe hack it to pieces? Bigger question, how were they going to convince Sonora and her gang to trust them?
"...Hm." Mhynt listened closely. "I come from a world where death as a punishment has a very different meaning. Better, worse. Hard to say. But for something like theft, of any scope, death is not the punishment I would approve of. And while we are guests in this world... we are also trying to save it. I wonder if we can get some sway here. I'm not about to save a world by ending more lives I don't need to, let alone by some back-in-time tradition of killing all our problems."

Mhynt closed her eyes, thoughtful.

"What use is she to us?" Mhynt asked. "If we can find an excuse to keep her alive, perhaps she could be an asset in other ways. What use is the mayor to us if 'skeletons' are also something for us to deal with instead?"

Gods, and where was that cloud? It'd be nice for some guidance instead of being plopped into some mayor wanting a petty gala to go well. What were they wasting their time puffing up some featherbrain's ego for?
When Corey and Archie stopped by Lorenzo's to pick up their fancy outfits, they fold her about Ignatus and that there was a meeting in the Haus. She quickly finished the stitching on a pair of chaps for a quadruped, then followed the two to the Haus, frowning as she heard more details.

"Hanging criminals in the middle of town? Does he know how many ghosts all that resentment will make? I can't eat that all myself! Then they'll go out and whisper mean things in more Pokémon's ears, and unless there's a lot of Dark-types around here, in a couple of years no one will trust each other. Yeesh, it's bad enough already!"

Clover hovered near the food, half wishing she could taste it. But emotions were tasty enough already, so what did it matter she was made of cloth?

"So, um, do any of us need the bounty money? I'm paying for myself here, now, but I think some of you don't have jobs yet. Maybe we should make sure we're self-sufficient before we start taking sides."
Ridley was still aching from the battle he'd participated in and all he really wanted to do was grab some food then go collapse in his room, but when he heard the topic of conversation in the food hall it instantly caught his attention. He piled his plate high with food and settled down to eavesdrop.

"Grand larceny and highway robbery, a step above petty thievery. The mayor of the town asked me and three others to act as guards to an upcoming gala and as you can imagine, this is who we'll be guarding it from," she explained.

It was a relief to know Sonora had been honest about her crimes. Or at least honest about the crimes anyone could connect her to, Ridley supposed. Still, if she'd been telling the truth about that much, then he felt much better about his decision to help her. He might not consider himself the heroic type, but Ridley liked to think he at least had some sense of morality.

(Did she know the mayor knew she was planning to sabotage his party and was prepping for it? Was that something Ridley should warn her about next time he saw her?)

Second: everything else about this conversation, what the fuck. Yeah, Ridley was feeling better and better about his decision to help wreck that guy's shit. He chewed his food slowly, trying to remain unobtrusive while he decided whether or not he wanted to interject.
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"As long as I maintain focus, I could theoretically hold an illusion for as long as I'd like, however, as you may have noticed I am not a complete master of the practice," Bellatrix replied, shifting her tail into view. However a shadow of disappointment crossed the floragato's features when considering his prior point. It didn't last long though as Archie managed to stumble his way back on being on the same page. Massaging the bridge of her nose she said, "Yes, that was what I had in mind. Indiscrete sabotage to make the rope snap or the lever jam. It buys time and does not leave the mayor seeking out alternative options."

Towards Mhynt the illusion shrugged. "How should I or any of us know? The only thing we know of her comes from these posters and the mouth of Ignatius who most certainly would not accept any excuse to keep her alive." Her claws tapped on the side of the table. "As for the mayor's use, it's more so a matter of building reputation and taking advantage of whatever credit he provides. There are still a few of us here who rely on his son's tab to continue lodging here, for instance. And, given how petty he is, I would not be surprised if he demanded bounties on us if we ever decided to cross him. Frankly, I would prefer to not live the life of an outlaw here."
"Hm. That's true, "Mhynt surmised. "We would need to build our strength first before we can deal with him." She wondered if she was projecting anything when envisioning a three-headed Empoleon being stomped into the ground, dominated and defeated by his corrupt and selfish dealings. Knocked down into the dirt where he belonged.

Nah, she was fine.

"This seems to be a matter of neither side being desirable, but we can't afford to alienate either. I doubt the politicians of town will be useful for whatever we're trying to save, otherwise surely they already would have put things in motion with their influence. But they will also become trouble for us. However, the underground knowledge and dealings of a thief's life... that could provide more useful information. I used to deal with those kinds of things. Politicians know the general problem, but are clueless about specifics. Those who lurk in the dark are the ones who can point us to exactly where we need to be. For a price. Or some persuasion."

She flicked her hand, producing seemingly from nowhere a small kitchen knife.

"...But that, too, we would need to build up some strength."

"So, I agree. We play both sides. But we should cover our bases. We cannot allow a single point of failure to make everything else collapse. If your illusions are shoddy, you need to prepare an escape so you aren't spotted." She crossed her arms. "Perhaps we can coordinate it where, once we apprehend her, we make an illusion like she'd been repelled from the gala outright... gaining some partial payment, their good graces, but also staging an escape for her to meet up later. I can assist with that." She flicked her hand again. The knife was gone.
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