Decker Dequill knelt in the Boomtown stables, brushing one of the three new horses left in his care, the one they called Andre, something that took him far longer than it should have, as Decker had a habbit of making sure that any horse in his care was meticulusly cared for, and as a result, made sure the majestic white horse's fur shone before standing, stretching, and walking out of the stall, running his hand along the horse's back in a gesture of comfort as he walked out, carefully latching the stall's gate after exiting the hay-laden enclosure. Taking a minute for himself, Decker breathed in deeply, smelling the sweet, savory scent of fresh hay and manure, before turning around and walking to the far end of the long stable, working his neck with his right hand as he purposefully strode to the large wooden post holding up the corner of the ceiling, grabbing the broom as he sighed deeply, the twinge in his neck finally subsiding, before setting himself to the arduous task of sweeping the stray pieces of hay from the hard-packed ground, a hefty job which any other man would have found exhausting, but for Decker, this daily mountain to climb was inconsequential, as he was used to hark work.
Besides, Decker liked the motonous hour of sweeping that he would accomplish daily.
It gave him time to... think.
Settling into the familiar habits of his everyday stable-work, Decker swept the back exit of the stable first, then made his way to the side of the stable-dedicated building reserved entirely for horse stalls, where he started sweeping the hard ground, working his way from the right to the left, where he swept the bits of straw and hay through the fence to his left and into the field, where, eventually, they would work their way back to the inside of the stables, where Decker would sweep them out once more, in the next move of a repetetive, never-ending cycle which brought Decker a small bit of comfort in an otherwise turbulent and unpredictable world.
Just as Decker was finishing up sweeping, having only to clean out the front entrance to the stable and his long task would be done, a Southern-accented voice interruped his thoughts.
"Excuse me, sir?" Decker started, dropping his broom in surprise of being jolted out of his thoughts, and looked up into the face of a woman in a red dress, or, rather, the place where her face would be, if she weren't wearing the raven-styled black domino on her face.
"You startled me." Decker said, a grin forming on his face as he bent over and picked up his broom, the woman in front of him smiling a slightly relieved smile, apparantly glad at not having overtly scared the young man of about twenty-two before her. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I simply adore horses." The young woman said, walked up to the first horse in the line, a black-spotted piebald, and stroked the mare's nose affectionately, revealing a deepset love for horses in her bones. "It's no bother at all, Ma'am, you're free to come here whenever you want. This property is on the Boomtown commonwealth, so there's no need to worry." Decker said, smiling as leaned on his broom, in no rush to leave the presence of a fellow horse lover, content with watching the woman in red gently stroke the mare's nose.
"Oh, thank you ever so much!" The woman in red gushed, turning around and extending her right gloved hand for a shake. "Isabel Blackstone." The woman introduced herself, with Decker acknowledging her friendliness by extending his own right hand and shaking hers. "Decker Dequill." Decker said, letting his hand fall to his side as Isabel continued speaking once more. "Really, I can't thank you enough, I haven't seen a horse in years, at least not since Mommy and Daddy sold the house in Evergreen Meadows and we moved to Evercity." Decker absorbed this comment with ease, then casually asked, "Evercity, you say?" as if he wasn't sure exactly what Isabel had said, with Isabel replying with an eager nod, punctuated by the movement of her wispy blonde bangs, which bounced with each shake of her head. "Ah." Decker nonchalantly said, nodding twice as if that was what he thought, then turned around, blinking at the sun on the horizon as he gazed out across the large, fenced-in pasture he had worked so hard to cultivate for the horses of Boomtown, squinting to protect his eyes from the bright light.
"The evening light is fading." Decker said, still studying the sun, with Isabel replying, "Yes, and there's mist on the horizon." Walking up to Decker and standing by his side, studying the sun as he did, Isabel suddenly shivered, then put her arms around her, as if feeling a sudden chill. "There's a chill on the wind." Isabel commented, frowning as she realized she had forgotten to unpack her box of shawls. Decker, not noticing her plight, responded with a calm "Yes, but I welcome the cold whole-heartedly." Turning around, Decker noticed Isabel's posture, and after glancing around, offered her a small blanket he removed from a small trunk nearby, which Isabel reluctantly accepted, wrapping the slightly weather-worn quilt around her shoulders. "Thank you." Isabel said, with Decker smiling and replying. "Anything for a fellow citizen." After a few moments, Isabel suddenly changed the subject.
"So, what can you tell me about this miserable shantytown?" Isabel bluntly asked, causing Decker to start at her brutal judgement of his hometown of two and a half years, before chuckling at realizing that the sarcasm was for his benefit. "Well, Ms. Blackstone, it might not look like much, but this here township is my home, so I'd treat it with respect while you're here, y'hear?" Decker said, smiling at his last few words, a joke not lost on Isabel, who laughed unashamedly t Decker's play on words. "Now, all jokes aside...?" Isabel asked, drawing her words out to suggest her meaning to Decker, who got the message and changed his composure almost immediately.
"Jokes aside? Well, Boomtown's got low security, nearly no border control, and everybody trusts everybody else with a smile on their face and a hand on their hip holster, if you know what I mean." Decker said, with Isabel nodding in reply, signaling for him to continue with his short, yet expressive descriptions. "The Mayor's got his hands full with handling the new citizens, what with finding room for them and all, and is struggling to balance the new citizens' wants and the economy, due to the fact that many of the new citizens have refused to conform to the unspoken rule of only using scrip, instead only using Imperial-sanctioned currency rather than bits and pieces of gold, or precious metal, or shares of a mine, on and on the list goes." Decker continued before stopping, glancing around, leaning forward slightly, and whispering in a conspiratal tone to Isabel, "There are rumors that the Mayor might actually have an opponent in this year's election, something that hasn't happened since Overquil's overthrow." Isabel huffed heavily, intrigued at this piece of gossip, but wondering if this might negatively affect her trip, a fact she was very displeased with.
"Who are the leaders, interesting characters, undesirables, and such?" Isabel asked, with Decker chuckling at her straightforwardness once more, then quickly replying upon seeing Isabel's impatient look. "In the first case, There's M. Rustquil, the Mayor, whom noone knows what his first name is, though it's rumored to be Emery, you've got Bill Snapperfin, the beloved, stinkin' owner of the Inn, and Julius Westletin, the weaselly miser who happens to be owner of the Stillglaive Theater, among other things." Isabel raised an eyebrow at this last comment, but Decker, not noticing her reaction, continued with his unflattering descriptions. "There's Richard Steelbow, the somewhat heavy-set owner of the bank, and that's where the list of interesting characters starts." Decker said, pausing to take a breath before continuing with his long monologue. "There's Laurence B. Dafartie, affectionately hated as "Bomb Boy", with an obsession for explosives of all shapes and sizes, Maxwell DeSpark, the French clean-freak who owns Despark's Delicacies, and Elias Huxley, who just seems to blend in with everyone, and in my mind, that is veeery suspicious, indeed." Decker hesitated, cracking a wide grin as he clapped his hands and rubbed them together, his jovial mood betrayed by his joking exclamation of "And now, we come to everyone's favorite part, Boomtown's Least Wanted!"
Decker stopped, tilting his head slightly as if he had heard something, then shook the distracting thought out of his head, the impatient Isabel Blackstone's questions filling his mind once more. "First off, there's Carlos Maxburn, a Spanish man who sticks to the more unsavory parts of town, and is said to be friends with Jacques DeSpark, another unwanted man, the wayward and estranged younger brother of Maxwell DeSpark." Decker said, pausing momentarily as it seemed he heard a soft laugh on the wind, but no, it must have been his imagination, as there was no-one here but him and Isabel, then continued speaking. "Next, we have Caleb, the mysterious lower-class man who spends all his money on miscellaneous parts of machinery, then disappears into the rabbit hole of a basement he lives in to do fog knows what. Most people dislike him for his annoying tendency to pop up randomly and make a big ruckus for no apparent reason, then vanish as fast as he came, causing everyone to wish he'd simply stay in the rabbit hole of his."
Decker stopped, taking a few seconds to gather his bearings, then frown, biting his lip for a moment, before resuming his long explanation. "Finally, we have Moonshine, Moonshine Grangeville, Boomtown's unofficial resident watchman." Decker paused, his expression troubled enough for Isabel to inquire "Is he that much of a problem?" Decker, hesitated, then nodded. "Half of the town thinks he's nuts and avoids him, the other half thinks he's just senile and ignores him." "Is he? Crazy, I mean." Isabel asked, with Decker putting his palms in the air in an expression of cluelessness, before sticking his hands in his pockets and responding. "Who knows? He's got the wisdom of a man who's lived for over a hundred years, but the body of a fifty-year old, and a mind seemingly at its peak efficiency. Sure, the coot goes on and on about visions whenever anybody asks him, but it's the fact that he knows things he ought not to that unsettles you." Decker blinked three times, then spoke absentmindedly, as if talking to himself. "He never takes off those shades he wears, reflective, so if you look him in the eyes its almost as if you're talking, looking, and judging yourself, and will patiently let you talk, as if content to just listen, but staring straight at you all the while, as if reading your mind while looking deep into your soul." Decker suddenly shivered, as if shaking an unsettling thought from his mind, then forced a smile onto his face, looking from behind Isabel and into the distance, back to Isabel, his mouth smiling, but his blue eyes betraying a slight sense of fear and dread.
"Now, if that'll be all, Ma'am, I'm afraid I've got work to get back to." Decker said apologetically, with Isabel acknowledging his words with a nod. "Again, thank you for everything." Isabel said, referring to Decker's helpful information and his graciousness to tell her that she could come to the stables and visit the horses whenever she wanted. "No problem, Ma'am, it was my pleasure." Decker responded, lifting his hand as if to tip an imaginary laugh, with Isabel smiling, then turning on her heels, walking towards the exit with her head tilted slightly downwards, as if pondering all she had heard.
"Oh, one last thing." Decker said, causing Isabel to look over her shoulder as Decker raised a finger and pointed at her mask. "Your mask... is it a sparrow, or a crow?" Isabel paused, amused, then replied. "A raven." Isabel said, turning her head straight once more as she exited the stables, leaving Decker standing thoughtfully on the hard-packed ground, many thoughts bouncing through his mind, before releasing a quick breath, taking his broom into his hands, and walking out of the stables by the back exit, towards the pastures, his thoughts centered on the finely-dressed young lady who had deigned to pay him a visit, her last few words echoing through his mind on a repeat cycle.
As Isabel exited the stables, her head slightly down, she bumped into a man in a pearl-grey suit heading across her path, and after both profusely apologized to the other, the man in the grey suit allowed Isabel to continue on her way, but instead of following at a short distance, as that road was the only one back to Boomtown, the man in the grey suit watched the woman in the red dress walk along the road, eventually shrinking into a red blob in the distance, until she entered the Snapperfin Inn, where she presumeably had a room.
After a few minutes, contemplating his next move, the man in the pearl-grey suit smiled, chuckled, said something in French, then strode down the road exiting the Boomtown Ranch, the words that the woman, Isabel, and the man, Decker, had exchanged, which the man in the grey suit had just happened to overhear, playing on repeat in his head.
However, one thought pushed its way to the front, and upon percieving it, the man in the grey suit smiled even broader, quickening his step as the thought rang out loud and clear in his mind:
Samson would be very pleased with what Jacques had just overheard.