A Nation Divided

Battle of LaCroix Estate
A small war and defending an estate

Journal,
I want to inform that we have successfully protected the estate. There was some issues with the Confederate Army attempting to bargain their way into the estate but, Miss LaCroix would have no truck with that. Instead she allowed only the most wounded of soldiers to enter and only without weapons.

I’ve spent much time with the wounded soldiers.

It is strange that they fight for my enslavement, they fight to keep a broken world turning and they fight, most of them, because they don’t know what else to do. I think I may even feel for them. Laying in a cot on the floor of Madame LaCroix’s grand room struggling to breath.

Struggling to breathe.

I’ve dealt with it before and here I am dealing with it again. Miss LaCroix… should I call her Catherine? She told me that I was her half brother today. We had just held back and advancing army, I’d held two men’s hands in mine as they died and was stitching up another.

Miss Catherine sees the world as it should be.
I can only see what is there. That’s been my curse since we were children. I know she meant well to tell me, she treats the truth as if it’s a cure or a balm for all hurt. She tells me that I am her halfbrother as if I should cheer. All I could think about where the times that I had to go to the stables to be whipped for allowing Miss Catherine to “get out of hand” or that time that Alan and Vincent held me down and beat me with their fists because I was getting “uppity” with them.

I was her half brother.

I thought about the day my mother was sold away. I was young but I still remember that sad smile of hers when she told me that things would be better for me one day. I’ve never seen or heard from her since but that smile still makes me sad. Now, that smile haunts me. To think that Mr. LaCroix forced himself on my mother. That I am the product of cruelty. I don’t know how to explain how I feel.

I practically spat at her. I held back the worst vitriol. I didn’t tell her about how her father made me the product of rape. I didn’t tell her about my beatings, whippings or the times that Mr. LaCroix threatened to sell me. She would have shattered to hear any of that. I tried to simply leave, go back to my duties and put this out of my mind until I can understand how to even feel about it.

She didn’t want to let me leave. Eventually, I said something about being a half-white, free man now. It was meant to hurt, only even now I cringe as I write it.This journey is changing me and I don’t know how it changes me or where those changes will leave me.

I only know that none of this was Miss Catherine’s fault and that she has always seen me as a free man. I wish I could see myself the same way.

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Making friends at the barrel of a gun
Hanna tracks the party, rallying the help and preparing for war


Journal,
I write this now with worry in my heart. A strange lady named Hanna burst into Madame LaCroix’s home today looking for revenge. She thought that we had something to do with the events at black rock. After a bit of a dust up and misunderstanding, we told her what we knew. It seems that she arrived at Black Rock shortly after we left the place. She managed to track us all the way to New Orleans and somehow she also got Miss Catherine’s name.

She decided to stay with us while we protected the estate and then she would settle the issue that Mr. Pinkerton had left us. Mister Pinkerton had a missive sent to Catherine’s home that said there was an item in the Clay Monument that he wanted us to retrieve. He said that it is of the utmost importance that we either acquire the item or that we find out what was there and who has it now.

John had a plan involving setting up specific locations from which to defend the land. Catherine added something about breaking into smaller groups to spread out and even our defenses more. We have 180 or so men in total. Thats men who used to be slaves and men who used to be their overseer’s.

Madame LaCroix last night deemed that all the slaves on her property were now free men who could stay and work the land for pay and property of their own or they could simply leave to gain their own fortune. I knew that I was blessed to have a friend like Catherine LaCroix.

She has not only freed me but, along with her mother, she has freed all of us in the plantation.

Anyway, we’ve got enough guns for maybe 30 of them. Luckily, we do have the knives, swords and gardening tools like hoes, machetes, etc. All in all, I have faith that John and Catherine can unite these people into a fighting force. I wonder about the new woman, Hanna. I don’t trust her very much and feel like she is going to come with more problems than we can handle.

Anyway, I must assist with the preparations.
It is a good day.

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The Capture Of New Orleans


Journal,
I don’t know what to write here. I’m supposed to sleep before we make Madame LaCroix’s home into a fortress yet I can’t. I don’t know what I am now. The truth is journal, that I’ve done a despicable thing. The night after we left that strange mine, Miss Catherine gave me the canteen filled with that water. I spent most of that night like I have spent this one. I was haunted by that canteen.

It is cowardly I know but, the thought kept returning to me that when this whole adventure came to an end; I would die. God save me, I was so afraid. Then, I began thinking about the… thing that was under that mountain. The thing that the ghost people were watching or protecting. I didn’t know what else to do. The fear and worry was welling up within me and I couldn’t put it down.

Understand journal, that my first thought wasn’t for me. I left my tent and stood outside of Miss Catherine’s tent for what felt like ages. I thought to myself, if immortality is really what this canteen contains then that would be the only way that I could keep Miss Catherine safe. Guilt got the best of me then. I couldn’t force such a burden on Miss Catherine so, I took it. I took a small mouthful and swallowed. It burned with a fire hotter than hell. For a while, my blood felt aflame. I grit my teeth in agony and fell to the ground. There were explosions of light behind my eyes and when I opened them, I inhaled. The air tasted strange; it had no flavor to it. It was as if the color had dulled in the world around me. I accepted this as my price.

On our way to New Orleans, we came across an old Houngan man that called himself Old Greg. He said that he was waiting for us, that someone or something named Damballa had told him that we were coming. He called Miss Catherine “the Princess”, John he called “The Theif” and he called me “the Knight”. He said something about a wall.

[Smudged ink]

I must go, there is a noise in the courtyard.

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You Can Never Go Home Again


Journal it has been quite some time since I wrote you, we have traveled quite a long while from the town of Blue Ridge to this empty stretch of night we find ourselves now. I write because guilt is eating away at me like maggots from within. I feel vile. In protecting my dearest and until recently, only friend I have hurt her more than I could have imagined.

Let me tell what happened before. As I said, the journey from Blue ridge was as intense as anything I had imagined. Miss Catherine suffered the indignities of rough travel in a way that I could never have expected from her. John never ceases to amaze me with the way he seems resolutely adaptable. I had envisioned him a city rat, and I mean no offense by the term. I mean to say one who is so at home in the city streets that the smoke of the city is the air in his lungs and the water of the city is his blood. In essence, I saw him as one with the city.

And yet! Here in this trackless expanse he has come quite into his own. More than once he navigated us around obstacles, found shortcuts and helped us communicate with the southern people from Mexico and places south. They spoke merely Spanish but, in a strange pidgin that seemed equal parts mime and dance, John managed to secure us shelter and food.

In a valley nestled deep between a pair of mountains, Miss Catherine fell quite ill. I feared for her in a way that I hadn’t since choosing to enter that dreadful mine. Her pallor was at once dry and beaded with sweat. Her skin took on a dull gray complexion. Miss Catherine attempted to push on quite heroically but eventually deep in the hours of night she succumbed to the illness building within her.

Horrified, I awoke to a strange, meek mixture of sobbing and moaning. At first I wondered if an animal had wandered into our slipshod camp. When I hastily got off of my bedroll, I could tell the noise was coming from Miss Catherine’s tent. The knot in my belly grew and twisted as I saw the prone body of Miss Catherine, writhing in agony. She was mumbling incoherently and I knew that she must be having terrible fever dreams.

I awoke John at once and his mind worked like a machine. Gathering all the blankets and water we had, we stayed up all night then. The night wore on slowly like an endless nightmare and Miss Catherine slipped in and out of her wits. Still, she clung on to life with a tenacity that not even the devil himself could pry her from the mortal realm and when day broke, Miss Catherine stood victorious. She thanked us for our help but she was never one to enjoy being waited on so she reminded us of our mission.

We had to return home.

Home. Such a strange mixture of feelings well up in me now. Out here, the differences between white, black and even Mexican and red they blur. The color of ones skin fades into the background. My two companions have shown that good does good for it’s own sake. In my travels I’ve met many people. Some who immediately judged me based on the color of my flesh and others who withheld that judgment until they saw who I really was.

I think that if I am to return to being a slave, I would rather die. I would gladly have run and made my attempt at freedom among the wastes and wilderness but for Miss Catherine. He and her blasted “great adventure” pull me in like gravity. I am powerless to do anything but stay due to both my loyalty to my friends and this insatiable curiosity that I blame Miss Catherine for.

Yet, tonight will live with me as a night that guilt cleaved me in two. We stayed in a putrid little hamlet that didn’t even have a name. By the time that we dragged ourselves into town, the sun had gone down hours ago. An old man named Jeb, I believe, didn’t even look at me other than to spit on the floor in front of me. He directed us to a massive beast of a woman named Betty. Betty was the worst kind of person, the one who judges and hates without even knowing that she does. She allowed Miss Catherine and John to stay with her for the night but, I would have to find my own accommodation.

I am no stranger to this kind of behavior so, I assented and encouraged them to take advantage of the offer. Catherine was too tired to argue and spent the night there while John and I ended up bedding in the storehouse of a broken down saloon. John said later that the Saloon owner had intended some kind of attack in the night to relieve us of our valuables but John deterred him. He refuses to explain how he managed to do that and I’ve grown fearful of asking.

That night, Betty told Miss Catherine of things that I found to be wonderful but wished that Miss Catherine could learn those things differently. She said that Abraham Lincoln gave an order that slave ownership was illegal and that slaves who fought for the union would be free after the war. I don’t know if I dare myself to accept this knowledge so freely but were it to be true! The world would change instantly!

Later, Miss Catherine asked me about what she had heard. Talk of freedom being given to Negroes and slavery being abolished. Catherine has always been a young soul, unburdened by guilt, fear and hate. I tried my best to shield her from the evils of the world beyond. It was a matter of time however that she would learn of the truth. Now she calls herself a monster.

Could I have been wrong to protect her?

I know not the answer but, I wonder if it wasn’t fortuitous in the end in order to steel ourselves for the things to come. I think back to the water, that life-giving fluid and wonder if I did the right thing. I say all this because as I write this last entry, I can see New Orleans burning.

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This Old House
A house, a storm and a crazed serial killer


The party enters the town of Blue Ridge during a particularly strong thunderstorm. Tobias asks Catherine and John to get them rooms at the famed Blue Ridge Villa. The party gets the rooms and meets the other lodgers but during dinner are given the worst news a party of adventurers could hear. Tobias and all the party’s gear is on the other side of a flooded river with the bridge washed away.

They were stuck.

Not only were they stuck in the mansion with no cool gear, Catherine changed out of her clothes first thing and didn’t have any real clothes to change into afterward. The maids had to get her some clothing that would actually fit because she couldn’t just wander about in her slip. So she jury rigged a corset, man’s shirt and skirt. Unfortunately, shoes just weren’t in the cards for her.

The pair mixed and mingled with the other lodgers and befriended a young man with a vary strange way of speaking. His colloquialisms made no sense 11 out of 10 times. There was a séance that failed miserably and the “mystic” was made fun of. There were stories and humor and then piercing the smiles and the laughter, there was a scream.

Someone was poisoned.

The boy was given a pretty good dose of cyanide. There was a murderer among the lodgers. A disgraced sheriff took charge and started a basic investigation. People were rounded up, a search was made to see if there was anyone else in the mansion. In their search, Catherine and John took their friend with a way with words to the basement. Down in the basement, John and the smooth talking cowboy went on a search that came up empty. In the meantime, Catherine saw claw-marks with no claws, footsteps with no feet and then finally a little girl appeared far too close. The little girl merely said “he’s not what he seems” in the wonderfully creepy way that little girl-ghosts like to.

There was a commotion upstairs where the clean cut kid had been found out as a thief in league with the mystic. The searching had found him out to have snatched all manner of valuables while the mystic attempted (and failed) to amaze. Catherine and John ran up to find what the issue was and defuse the situation. Learning of the theft, Catherine attempted to point out how little that matters when a murderer is on the loose. While everyone was upstairs, the Silly sounding cowboy was found stabbed in the back. Another victim.

Eventually everyone was rounded up in the smaller great-room where they were questioned and blame was thrown around back and forth. Eventually all hell broke loose when the lights went out due to a door flying open. The fake mystic got possessed and seemed to warn the crowd “she will not stop”. A guy got his throat slit and the body count continued to rise.

Lights came back on and calm tried to be reestablished. Catherine quickly came up with an idea to make the catatonic landowner speak. Alcohol! Her idea was if they could get the landowner drunk, he could loosen up and speak of what he saw in his room. With a bit of disbelief, the ex-sheriff and John agree to recover some wine from the dinning room. The search for the wine was pretty uneventful, they did manage to find a table with many knives on top. So, John did what anyone would do if they saw that many knives, he takes one for his own and hides the others. While John and the ex-sheriff collected the boozes for the catatonic landowner, Catherine had a dangerous encounter with a Jerky Cowboy.

The encounter was simple, during Catherine’s continue investigation of the visitors and staffs, she had an apprehensive artist who refused to show her painting to anyone. At first Catherine tried to assure her that she (Catherine) would be the only one to see the painting. With these words, the Jerky Cowboy protested and demanded that everyone get a chance to see the painting. Catherine had zero tolerance for protests, so she let her anger get the best of her. She made a quick dash and carefully cuts the Jerky cowboy’s arm…a little. This clearly angers the Jerky cowboy but proves to shut him and other protesters up. Frightened by the act of violence, the artist shows Catherine the painting privately. The painting is of a man raising the spirits of the dead. Catherine becomes convinced that this is the reason for all the murders and offers to buy the painting from the artist. The artist devastated of Catherine’s plans to destroy the painting agrees to sell the painting but only because she really needed the money. Catherine takes the painting, shows the rest, they gasp, and all agree in destroying the painting. Catherine throws the painting into the fire but nothing happens. John and the ex-sheriff return with the wine. Before they can follow with the alcohol plan, a tree comes crashing through the window.

The killer wasn’t playing this time.

An enormous bookshelf fell over, killing many people. In the rush to get out of the room, Another person was murdered. The survivors gathered in the dining while Catherine followed john’s compulsion to go to the stairs. In the stairs he saw a woman’s ghost flee into the basement. The ex-sheriff and a jerk with a cowboy hat went downstairs to the basement to find out what was down there after John let slip something about weirdness downstairs following a strange banging on the cellar door.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Six shots echo out of the dining room where the survivors had holed up. When Catherine and john arrived, they were there in time to see the pretty blond maid reloading her revolver. She cheerfully let them know that it’ll be there turn soon. They ran off dodging bullets the whole time. They ran upstairs and hid just in time for the ex-sheriff and jerky cowboy to return from their basement excursion. The blond murderess pinned it on the party members holed upstairs but when the two turned their back, she shot them.

John brought the dying cowboy in and put him on the bed. His thigh had been hit and he was loosing blood really fast. They patched him up the best they could and made a break for it. Running off into the hedge maze, they braved the rain and thunder and unwieldy terrain. The blond killer gave chase.

They ran through the hedge maze with the killer in tow until she lost it. She began shooting at a different direction and yelling at the spirits of her mother and sister. She was distraught that she couldn’t hear her father anymore. John and Catherine tackled her, john saw the mother who then disappeared and Catherine knocked the killer out.

The haunted house adventure wrapped up neatly with the sheriff and the shot up cowboy still breathing, the killer tied to a chair and our heroes triumphant. The story wasn’t done though, the sheriff and Tobias returned to find a little bit of hell. Winding down, the party gathered themselves, shopped for a few things, john went to the execution of the crazed murderess, telegrams were sent to Pinkerton and even more bad news came.

The Civil War had begun.

The battle at Fort Sumter had been fought, the south had seceded and the union had begun it’s march toward Louisiana. Louisiana is where Catherine’s family and home and her whole life actually was based. Preparations were made to ride there as fast as they could. Come hell or high water, they would blaze through enemy territory to protect Catherine’s family.

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The Ghost Town
Empty Town, Ghost People, And The Fountain Of Youth


Catherine and John are sent to a small town named Black Rock to find out why no one has heard from them. The native american guide who takes them there refuses to stay after dark. After setting up camp high up in the town church’s bell tower, the party discovers why. The Ghost People that the guide was talking about are real people who seem unnaturally pale, walk on all fours and have the nasty habit of smelling things around.

John acurately deduces that the things are human and that they seem to be using their sense of smell as their primary sensory input. Catherine then proposes blowing up the mountain. All this musing is punctuated by a deep, echoing bellow from deep in the mountain. Something is in there. The Ghost People continue coming out of the cave to then return at the bellowing sound.

In the morning, the party discovers a house where the only two bodies are found. A young slave woman seemed to have hung herself and hidden up in the attic, the rich patriach of the family has shot himself. The notes that he had been writing are the only real clues as to what happened in Black Rock.

The “Golden Sun” group had been working behind the scenes here. They were directing the mine to something that they claim to have been very close to finding. Unfortunately, they stumbled on something terrible instead.

With this information in hand our band of heroes decides to enter the mine and uncover the source of the sound, the thing that was being looked for and hopefully free the townsfolk. Things don’t end up the way that they’re planned however and although the Ghost People are deathly afraid of light, the townsfolk are nowhere to be found. The party does however stumble across an exciting find. They stumble across the fountain of youth and an enormous human shaped giant whose cries are the echoing noise heard in the night.

The giant is imprisoned underground and it’s tears are channelled to the fountain of youth. The party concludes that the Ghost People had been guarding the giant all this time and the townsfolk were the intruders having dug right into the Ghost People’s home. On the way out, unable to restrain her curiosity, Catherine cuts herself and dips her finger only to see it come out fully healed. The group gathers some of the water in a jug and head off. On their way out, they blow the upper level of the mine and thus close off that path of entry into the mountain.

John sets explosives throughout the town while Tobias (Catherine’s Slave companion) and Catherine bury the bodies of the two that were found. They discuss the possibilies of eternal life and even magic. Catherine is exited by the prospect of an even more fantastic world while Tobias take a more sombre approach. In the end, Catherine decides to have tobias hold the jug so that John (who had shown quite an interest in the water) wouldn’t be able to get it.

That morning before setting out, Tobias hands Catherine back the jug saying the “the temptation is too strong” for him. They then meet with the guide and set off for the long journey home.

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The Train Job
Lincoln Lives, Bad Guys Die And A Threat To The Union Is Found


After spending considerable time on a train attempting to uncover the person who will attempt to assassinate Abraham Lincoln before his inauguration day, John Taylor and Catherine LaCroix have been at their wits end. In a stroke of random luck and careful detective work, The Nun sister Rose and the Priest Father Stone were discovered to be the plotters. John Taylor followed the faux father under the train and in a daring show of bravado, managed to knock him loose. He fell to his death beneath the tracks.

In the meantime, Catherine used a flash-bang grenade crafted by John as an attempted distraction. The distraction works amazingly and quite possibly too well. The flash part of the grenade blinded several passengers and the bang part may have permanently left several unable to hear. Among the injured were two of Soon-To-Be-President Lincoln’s own guards and almost John dangling precariously under the train. Pretending to be blind (and only just mildly blind), Catherine then crosses over to Lincoln’s suite where the last guard named Ryan was just exiting. She deftly uses this occasion to completely fake being a blind, frail young belle. Ryan takes the bait and attempts to direct her away.

Distrust and a mild irritation at Ryan’s previous way of probing for information combined to make Catherine guess that he is in league with the assassins. Sure enough, she proved to be correct as Ryan was attempting to inexplicably shove Mister Lincoln into a bathroom. Some fancy footwork, a bit of luck and a rather exciting pistol-to-sabre duel ensues. The duel ends with the gun knocked clear out of the way and Catherine pointing the sword at Ryan’s throat and trying not to Gloat too much.

They tie Ryan up and check the rooms and passengers. In the faux father’s room, Catherine and Ryan find a strange book called the “Circle of the Golden Sun” and a wobbly black dagger. John pockets the book even though he can’t read because of his voracious interest in knowledge. Lincoln’s official guards take control of the situation and being torturing Ryan to which he blabbers something about “fires consuming the world” and “this world being made anew”. Eventually he complains about his lungs and how he has to take medicine.

Of all the people in the room, Catherine could clearly see what was coming next. She gave a dismissive remark about the pill but was ignored. Soon enough, Ryan was gurgling and foaming at the mouth after that, he was dead.

Two dead conspirators, Rose got away.
One live president and an awful lot of questions.

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