PART 1 - A Noble Route through a Hallow Pass

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The gilded halls of the Southpoint Imperial Railyard, built to celebrate the glory to his majesty the Immortal Emperor, framed the hustle of the Akoroan citizenry in a backdrop of wealth and noble class; never failing to remind them who they should thank to for their electro-sanctuary in a vastness of ink-dark Badlands. The BULLS stood like all do: at the foot of the rail office billboard looking for work, and perhaps a fair share of excitement and mystery.

The excitement proved to be much closer than they realized, as the hallmark whistle-sputtering of a gang of Peacemen marked the start of a chase through the nearby mall. A chase that the resourceful BULLS were happy to interfere with, once they learned that the would-be victim was none other than Waylan’s old trusted friend Bruce. A successful getaway resulted, and Stev successfully dodged some prying questions into his past from a Peacemen sergeant just in time to extract the first relevant news of the day: Bruce was wanted for the gruesome murder of a noblemen on the last train from Elysia.


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This intrigue and suspicion would not go unanswered by the BULLS, who had perhaps properly learned that survival in this line of work required the benefit of the doubt and reliance on backup. A short trip to Lynthia’s Butcher shop, in a nearby laborer district, led to Bruce’s presumed getaway destination: his longtime Southpoint apartment. They were pleased to find their prediction correct, as a hurried Bruce let them into the busy and well-used workshop that was his home. He explained that the life in the cities as a commoner was a lot less glamorous than duking it out against disembodied forces of vengeance on the LINES, and perhaps no less dangerous. His work as a yes-man to some seedy elements in the city had paid the bills, but the work had become increasingly less savory and legal. He was apparently just ready to quit while he was ahead, until he learned the second relevant news of the day: Amelia was out there somewhere, and they knew where. So Bruce agreed to trade a head instead, in exchange for info on his long-lost line-partner.

It was here that Bruce’s story was to be cut short, as vanguard Ari had identified that a more resourceful element of The Force had stepped in, and that a squad of Peacemen was quickly stepping up to the butcher’s block. Vond had just enough time to accept the strange “electro-mechanical de-header spirit-extractor” from Bruce, along with the mission of meeting the intended fence of the murdered nobleman’s trapped spirit on the Akoros Pass Line. Only then could they free Bruce from his servitude and learn the truth of Amelia’s purported existence.


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The BULLS grabbed their gear, booked a job, and took the next line outta Southpoint. They knew that Bruce could only evade the Force and his creditors for so long before he ended up trapped in a cell or a spirit-bottle, so time was a-tickin. The luxurious upper-class Akoros Pass Train proved a comfortable and uneventful journey for the first half of the trip. It wasn’t until they cleared the glimmering coastline and open fields of the “Not-Quite-So-Bad”-lands, that things on the train really started moving.

The combined net-worth of the train jumped a hundred-fold, as Mardus Bowman boarded the train at the small Akoros Pass waystation. And with it rose the interest of the BULLS. Ari was the first to hazard an audience in the Imperial suite at the from of the train, backed up only by Vond’s automoton Bishop. After being granted passage through the front-door, and the slightly more impassable door-like man guarding it, Ari presented herself nobly and pulled on her connections to learn that Mardus Bowman was planning something BIG. And that he wasn’t going to let anyone, including even his majesty the Immortal Emperor, stop him. Mardus was so impressed with Ari, that he even offered her a job working for him, and promised as payment the chance to speak to her deceased parents from beyond the grave. The main question that remained was which was crazier: That Mardus could stand against his majesty the Immortal Emperor, or that he had a way to communicate with the dead?


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A plan was hatched to disregard the nobleman’s privacy, and break into the Imperial suite. This proved surprisingly easy, as he was nowhere to be found when the BULLS came a-knockin. Instead, they learned the third relevant news of the day: Stev’s ex-partner Junior wasn’t as dead as they thought he was, and to add insult to injury, he was working directly for Mardus Bowman himself.

While Stev and Waylan waltzed through the front door, Vond and Ari decided it would be more prudent to sneak along the top of the train and drop down on the suite’s balcony. It was then that they were reminded of the age-old BULL proverb: “If anything can go wrong; it will”, as a loud electrostatic explosions reverberated through the train, and the roof-walkers magnetic gear quickly ceased to function. Vond and Ari were left to crawl along the roof of the train inch-by-inch, while their partners exposed Junior, and the Imperial suite’s contents, to a deep interrogation. The suite proved more divulging than the mute Junior, as they found a very familiar container for a “electro-mechanical de-header spirit-extractor” along with a case full of saturated spirit-bottles hidden under a globe.


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Finally, the BULLS investigation brought them to the more pressing worry at hand: the huge explosion and the cause for the train’s sudden grinding halt. The situation proved messy indeed, even by Severos standards. It appeared that another nobleman in the gambling hall had been scalped to the brain, presumably by the aforementioned murder device. The trains blood-covered passengers cowered in fear, while Mardus bowman and his strange sword-carrying walking tree-trunk companion were nowhere to be seen.

Their gear, but not the train, finally working again; the BULLS continued back up to the roof of the train in the middle of the descending dusk and howling acrid storm. It was here that they would make their stand against a whispering cloud of skulls and ghosts. The BULLS did not hesitate, and with deft leadership and splendid teamwork they faced down Skull-chains and the grasping spirits alike. They even decided to take a handicap and dangle Stev off of the side of the train above a hundred foot chasm, in order to not make the battle to easy. Some deft shot-calling and front-flips later, the BULLS had bottled the greater ghost, and dispersed the cloud of lost souls above.

But while they had succeeded in the battle at hand, the greater goal and Mardus Bowman’s secrets would elude them again. As they raced across the train cars one-by-one, they made it just in time to see their quarry slipping away into the raging dust-storm on the back of a spirit-powered hoverbike; a metaphorical grin clearly plastered on the front of his breather-mask.


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