Midwinter Hype Post #1
Aside from the buildings, most of the town was packing up for the gathering season and things were starting to look a bit sparse. The Corvid caravan had folded in on itself, packing things away in its bowels before they spurred it into motion. The Bastards, Norske and Roadhouse were all in different states of packing and storage, each with their own flair for the best way to stow certain items and walk with the rest. Tents were being struck, the town hall was being boarded up, and the hostel was quickly becoming cold and more sterile by the moment. Both of the main buildings, along with the naval depot, had been secured for storage should people want to leave more cumbersome items behind, and both The RPM and the Iron Navy would be on regular patrol, as it always was. Everyone else was being moved out of town, or into temporary accommodations offered by the navy.
In less than a day, the town would be deserted including the infirm or elderly, who would be in the warmth and care of the Ironworks. It would be expected that those taking the annual sojourn would bring supplies enough back to last through the worst of the winter, and with the town’s massive expansion in such a short time, it was worrisome to think what might happen if everyone didn’t band together.
Just this time, he wanted to stay home for the gathering season. He saved all the food he could, and bought rations just in case. He even managed to afford some medicine and hooch if things went poorly. He figured it was enough to get him through until people returned in full, if not longer.
As he watched the last of the caravans roll out of Steel Horse Crossing, and the lines of people that took to walking, he mused on his position. He wasn't going to steal, and even his snooping would be kept to a bare minimum. The remainder of the crowd trickled out of the hostel while Matt and Gary had steady conversation during the lockup. They were the last to leave, slipping into the crowd in front of the group of Norske who would take up the rear until the caravans parted ways.
He’d never stayed this late. He wasn’t sure if that was the “final sweep”. He heard the stories, but didn't know what that actually meant. He stayed low in the brush. He had to know.
Was it two days? Perhaps three? Suddenly, a loud engine was heard rolling up the road. A huge monstrosity of a vehicle billowing smoke and fumes stopped at the edge of town. Soldiers poured out with guns ready, and a man and woman stepped out behind them. They formed long lines and started walking the town, inch by inch. He kept perfectly still, barely breathing, so that he avoided any notice. He didn't know the penalty for staying, but he knew he didn't want to find out.
An eternity passed, and they seemingly swept the entirety of town and its outlying trails. The soldiers were finishing up, heading back towards the enormous vehicle, when a woman in a black suit snapped her head in his direction. She pointed towards his cover and said, “There.” He should have run. He should have started moving as soon as her intense green eyes locked on his hiding place, but he froze in terror. She looked right at him, as if she didn't have a doubt where he was the entire time. The men with guns grabbed his arms and dragged him out into the gravel road in front of the woman.
Somehow he was frozen, unable to move, while he was scolded by that terrifying woman’s gaze. A simple nod from this woman was all it took for them to shut him off. No strike, no pain, just black and quiet. He was unceremoniously dumped into the back of the vehicle as it roared to life.
Boots hit the floor around him, and the doors slammed shut with a loud clang that echoed through the empty streets of Steel Horse Crossing. The town was clear for The Gathering Time.