September Event Retrospective and Clarifications

Our first event was a success by nearly every metric. Our step into the new world, inside the new ruleset, under new management was as graceful as we dared to hope in the frantic weeks leading up to the game. Your feedback (of which there is so much thank you) largely indicates the playerbase agrees. That gives us a lot of hope, is a weight off our shoulders, and puts a shine in our eyes as we look towards the future. 

Every event has stumbling blocks though. And part of the reason we press you so hard for feedback is so we know what to change to make the gamespace more a fun, compelling and consistent environment for you to tell stories in. We want to address some of the concerns outlined in the feedback here so we’re all more prepared moving forward. These are not necessarily the most frequent feedback topics, but we consider these the most immediately pressing. 

“I didn’t understand how contracts work”

Contracts are an agreement between two parties to engage in a behavior for a duration. Those two parties can be private entities (just people who need to formalize a relationship), a private entity and a crew, a crew and a crew, or any other number of entities. If that contract is broken, which is a very severe wrongdoing in our setting, the person who broke contract is called a Breacher. There are various contracts that exist in the world that compel certain people called Lawdogs to detain a Breacher until an event at noon of every trade meet called The Gauntlet. At this event the Breacher is publicly beaten until death by a member of the RRC (an NPC) unless one of the following metrics are met: 

  1. Another entity signs a contract making them responsible for the Breacher’s code of conduct for the next three (3) months or the next Indulgence, whichever is sooner. It is customary for the new contract holder to beat the Breacher in this instance. For small crimes, small injuries. For larger breachers like murder, thuggery or the like, a more severe beating is merited.

    1. The contracting entity (not the Breacher) is responsible for the Breacher’s code of conduct. They are NOT entitled to the Breacher’s time, ability or labor. The contracting entity is not getting anything positive out of this exchange, they are making a sacrifice to look after a person who has failed the most basic tenet of society. 

  2. The contract is picked up by Prudence Penitentiary for the Peregrine and Penalized for the next twelve (11) months or the next Indulgence, whichever is sooner. 

    1. The contracting entity (in this case, the Prison) is responsible for the Breacher’s code of conduct. They’re carted off to prison where they’re held, largely at the RRC’s expense though Prudence Penitentiary surely has contracts with other faction identities, for the duration of their contract. 

    2. Nonviolent Breachers such as debtors, extortionists, ett are largely allowed to maintain their autonomy under guard and on prison grounds or with supervision outside the prison. This can look like commissary crews looking to sell wares, which the prison takes a portion of the profits for in order to maintain their infrastructure. 

    3. Violent Breachers such as murderers, thugs and robbers are kept in confinement for the duration of their contract and are not allowed the kind of autonomy that nonviolent Breachers are.  

Contracts are kept in duplicate, or triplicate if there is some kind of managerial entity (like a bookie or an accountant or a secretary) in charge of keeping contract copies. This is because if there is no contract collateral, there is no contract. 

“I worry the Prison is too close to the previous setting’s theme of slavery. It’s clearly evil too quickly.” 

This is a difficult discussion. So let’s do our best to come at it from a position couched in respect, compassion and the complexity this topic warrants. Let’s also understand that mods-as-written are not necessarily mods-as-delivered. 

The root of all evil in any setting, fictional or otherwise, is the unnegotiated denial of agency; the worst thing that people can do is make it so another person doesn’t have a choice. 

An uncomfortable truth is that all prison systems, by this metric, are evil. The ones that exist in our real lives, that serve a very real purpose insomuch that they give us a relatively humane alternative to killing people who don’t adhere to societal standards are evil.Not because of how the prisoners are treated, but because they exist at all. 

So yes, the Prison in this setting is evil. And there are derivative evils implicit in it being allowed to exist. Certain populations, disaffected minorities, uneducated people who sign contracts without reading them, whose land was destroyed years ago by a bomb, who are looking to assure their next meal, desperate and disparate populations who break contract out of necessity, are disproportionately affected by a function of their circumstance. And that’s horrible. 

Additionally and adjacently, the Prison houses the Breachers who are so damaging to society that, in a less civilized time, they would have been killed outright. Murderers, thugs, thieves, all of whom who otherwise would have met justice at the barrel of a gun - are instead sequestered away and allowed a last inch of agency that wasteland justice would have denied them. 

Humans have been trying for a very very long time to invent a method that works better than this one and scales with the population. But every iteration of culture has possessed some form of penal system because, when we come right down to it, the agency of a population is deemed more important than the agency of the individual. And removing a person from society who does not adhere to its standards allows that society to continue to exist. 

So we will always have antagonists that deny agency. History tells us this is how people behave. Our best bet is to burn the institutions themselves down occasionally so they don’t become so entrenched as to change our idea of who deserves agency and who doesn’t.  

If the Prison is moral or not is a long discussion. And it’s one I have always intended to have in the gamespace. I want your characters to hate it, to grudgingly accept it’s better than the bloody alternative, to demand something better, or to support it wholesale. I want you to submit plot requests to burn the contract library where they keep the prisoner contracts, to invest in prison infrastructure that disallows people from doing that because you firmly believe that this imperfect system is better than none at all, to incite riots, to create by the sweat of your own brow (or your character’s as the case may be)  a better world where agency is provided to all. 

So burn it down, build it up. Determine if it’s a system worth saving or if you can make a better one. Nothing in our setting is sacred, it’s a sandbox. Let’s build it together. 

“I am uncomfortable deriving entertainment from a theme that runs too close to real life and greatly effects POC - namely corrupt justice systems and systemic incarceration”

Friends, we hear you. LARP settings by and large are often about power dynamics, and while we can make our game a ‘safer space’ by removing language and analogues to sexism, racism, and transphobia, there are other dynamics that will always exist in a system that tells stories of struggle and inequality, society and justice. Disenfranchisement and classism are two byproducts of stories set in a non-egalitarian society. The Bravo-to-Bravado transition involved painful growth that advanced the social contract (quite literally) and ideals of ‘civilized society’ down the line from pure violence to something striving to be a bit more sophisticated. But it isn’t there yet. Just as we in real life have not found the perfect answers to society’s ills, Bravado is on the cusp of trying to figure out what a better world looks like through trial and error. There are factions devoted to defending the community, and there are opportunists ready to exploit those endeavors. And there’s you, our players, who can and will gain agency in making those decisions as you work your way deeper into our story.

Part of the conflict of this story, this setting, is this awkward growth period. Like a gangly adolescent, Bravado is trying to decide what it looks like in the heartache and revival of a post-Hiway War world. It’s ugly, and it’s meant to make you think. In real life, there is systemic disenfranchisement and incarceration that disproportionately affects specific demographics, namely POC. This is especially true of our real-life justice system, and those demographics by-and-large are not the people who play this game. We can try and mitigate some of those parallels, and to a certain extent we have - Bravado no longer has an election system, and so issues of gerrymandering and political corruption are 2.0 themes we are choosing to bypass right now. But we also want to be wary of removing the surface-level trappings of what makes us uncomfortable without acknowledging the underlying sickness, because that is a harmful sort of privilege as well. Which is to say, that shoving these themes totally out of the playspace might assuage some feelings of immediate discomfort in interacting with them, but is in some ways more of a disservice to the real life people these systems effect.

At the end of the day, we want to tell the stories you want to play, and we are willing to adjust the playscape in response to your feedback, but we do want to make those adjustments thoughtfully and carefully. We have members of our writing staff who have years of experience as prison guards, and others with experience as the incarcerated, and it is with those useful and lived experiences that we make content and move forward. It is likely that at some point in this setting,you will encounter some theme or mod you do not personally enjoy, possibly wholly separate from this one. For some of you, that might mean you do not choose to engage with these storylines, and you find your entertainment in other areas of our setting. For others, this is an opportunity to explore what it means to build a society up from nothing, and to try and find a better way to deal with some of these tricky subjects. We remind you that you are always welcome to ‘thumbs down” a scene that makes you personally uncomfortable, and to remove yourself from it. Our game will always be one in which you can choose who and what to engage with. Our negotiation and consent mechanics are stronger than ever, and we are always open to your feedback.

“People were hitting too hard.” 

We heard this one the MOST, believe it or not. We believe this is a function of a system that does not rely on clearly enunciated damage calls and instead on the notion of “sufficient force.” 

We’ll be working this topic into our opening announcements for the next few months. But our foundational solution is to take more hits than you think you’ve been struck with. People hit harder when they think their damage is being ignored. Don’t give anyone a reason to think you’re ignoring their damage. Make liberal use of the phrase “check your swings” and avoid an inciting tone in the way you express that. 

We’re all learning together. Stop hitting your friends so hard. 

In Summary 

Contracts are a system designed to enforce agreed upon behaviors. They don’t exist if there is no record of them. They do exist so long as a single, reference-able copy does. 

Our setting is a jumping off point for telling a massive, complex, lengthy story. No part of it is sacred. We’re happy to change how mods interact with the world, to accelerate the destruction of the Prison, to have conversations both in and out-of-character about the complex issue of institutionalized penal systems - but we’re largely un-okay with producing content for you in a world in which evil does not exist. 

We think that the perception thus far has been “This is the setting, you are not empowered to buck against it during the first year of play”. Going forward the party line should be “This is a setting where these vicious inequalities exist for complex reasons. Let’s explore those reasons together and tell a compelling story about it.” 

Oh and -  hit softer, take more shots. 

September Event Updates and Notes

Here are some important notes about this weekend’s game!

Burn Ban in Effect

There is a Bell County Burn Ban in effect through September 30th. No campfires allowed. Propane stoves are fine so long as someone is present and able to step OOC to safely supervise them in the event of combat. As always, a hot stove can never be left unattended. If you need to heat food, there are ovens in Kiva and Wikiup, and microwaves in many of the buildings.

Feedback Forms

There will be paper feedback forms available on site in both the Post Office and Logistics. Use these forms throughout the weekend when you notice something you need to remark on about the new rules system, or any other feedback. This is to help capture any moment where something is a bit ambiguous or goes really well so we can review it.

The online feedback is always available here on the website.

We are a community that learns together!

There may be some confusing and even frustrating moments this weekend, but at the end of it all we’re here to laugh and learn together. The best thing to do in the moment is to find a way to work through any confusion (ask a Guide for help if you need to!) and then get back into play. There will be lots of time for feedback after the event online as well, so be kind to your fellow players and we will all be patient with each other as we get up to speed!

This is a reminder to download the most recent rulebook link posted in August here. The most up-to-date version is called “DRELARP_Edit_10” but might show up for some as “Blueprint_Catalog.pdf” on the downloads page, so check that you have the right version!

We’re going to try and keep the lines moving as fast as we can in Logistics this game but it’s likely to get a bit crowded, so please be patient and we’ll help you as fast as we can!

And now the moment you’ve been waiting for…

Check in is now live!

Please read the following carefully!

Make sure when you select your ticket type and shift that you are selecting the same price that you paid during pre-reg. You can find your receipt in your email if you’re unsure.

If you are paying at the door, your options are:

  • $65 Standard Casting (4hrs)

  • $35 10 Hour Pass (2hrs)

  • $35 First Event/New Player (4hrs)

If you are a Guide or another special sort of shift (like our setup crew), we will check you in manually, so don’t worry about it! If you do not see the type of ticket you need, then also contact us and we can handle it.

There are a few small errors that you might encounter while checking in. This is a database under construction, so if it doesn’t work the first time, try again! And if it still is giving you some weirdness, then screenshot it and send it to us at info@dystopiarisingtx.com.

When you show up for your NPC shift on site, check in with the Guides on desk and they will check you in. The same goes for when you leave your shift. If you are a full-time NPC there is a check-in log you will sign in on in Logistics and we will handle your check-in at the door.

Alrighty, here’s the button!!

EVENT SCHEDULE

FRIDAY

3:00pm Site Opens and players can come on site

4:00pm Pre-Reg line opens

5:00pm On-site Registration opens

6:00pm New Player Guides are available in Logistics to help with New Players

8:00pm Opening Announcements outside of Logistics/Dining Hall

8:30pm New Player Orientation begins following Opening Announcements at Logistics. This leads into the New Player Mod at 9:00pm.

9:00pm Game On!

The Post Office will be open until 2am on Friday and Saturday night and opens at 8:00am on Saturday and Sunday. The Post Office closes at game-off on Sunday.

SUNDAY

12:00pm Game Off! Closing Announcements will be at the Bell at the Crossroads.

12:30pm Personal Cleanup begins

1:30pm Camp Cleanup begins

We all are tired at the end of the weekend so help your neighbors pack if you’re done with your section and we can all go home earlier!

Crafting Stations open to Community props

We got a few questions about this so… Have extra props that you want to use at the in-character Crafting/Artisan, Cooking/Brewing, or Agricultural/Farming workstations? Feel free to bring your own props to augment what we’ll have out. Because these are communal workstations, everyone is welcome to contribute. Note: unless you are donating them to the game, be prepared to take your props home/store them with you between games as our storage space is limited. If you are donating, talk to us in Logistics so we know! Thanks!

October Pre-Registration

Pre-reg for October’s PREMIERE event will go live on Tuesday, October 1st at 1:00pm.

Mark your calendars!

Reminder that you can always see our recent announcements and other info in the ‘Updates and News’ button at the top of this site!

See you soon!

Friendly Counsel

“...and we will have enough fuel to help the Sweetwaters move the equipment to Waking, but we will need to prepare for refueling costs there.”

Everyone was listening, she supposed, even if their body language said otherwise.  She smiled to herself, and continued. It was late, and even Shale was disinterested.  But it was the duty of the matriarch to lead by example, so Momma Rabbit paused for a moment to let the others realize their minds had been drifting.  It was subtle, but as a skilled fishmonger drove their fish to the net, so she rounded up their attention once more.

Children would be children. And children indeed were the royal attendees of this summit.  Lessons passed down from mother to mother in the Rabbit family always seemed to become useful in surprising ways, she mused. 

The rest of the regents were gathered around the map of The Lands Bravado, listening with at least half an ear to her update on current events.  It was challenging enough getting the regency of the Tribes Disparate in the same room for quorum, much less keeping their attention throughout.  They would have to wait until the Summit to get the entirety of the thirteen regents in one place. For the handful she had here today, this was a necessary meeting.  An army marches on its stomach, her mother always said. “The DJs needed fuel to continue playing their part in all this.” Momma Rabbit pressed now.

At the mention of this, Shale looked up.  It was the one thing the Queen didn’t seem to understand, but Shale was in his element in this moment.  He was the most interested in these council meetings, where strength of arms did not matter as much as strength of will.  Let the Queen pursue her wars, but Shale would lead from the council chambers. Momma Rabbit smiled to herself and at him.

“We can get the RRC to fund the expedition. The Antlers have been protecting the Ox’s move south, and they can’t afford us to redirect our forces somewhere else.”  she answered in response to Shale’s unspoken question. The regent of the Ox Killers glared at her mention, but stayed quiet for now.

The Texican regent put his boots up on the table and offered a different suggestion. Her kindly eyes darkened at this willful display of bad manners.

“Maybe the Conglomerate can make an offer too.” Sam said with a drawl. “The Ja Cintos have enough connections there.  The Minister don’t like dealing with the Railroad any more than necessary. We’re all here for the Queen first, not the Commission.”  The regent of the Ja Cinto Militia surely meant well, but Momma Rabbit sighed internally at his aggressive tone.

“Sam, you know as well as I do the contracts we’ve signed.” Momma Rabbit countered. She tsked at him and brushed his feet off the table.  He sheepishly apologized, as she wiped the dirt off the map. He was a good lad, if he could only remember his manners.

“Fuck the contracts.”  The Torchlight regent’s gravely voice was barely a whisper, but when they spoke, the primitive filter on their mask made it impossible to sense any real emotion.  The Lascarian could be expected to provoke the fight further.

Another argument. This night was not getting any closer to being finished. 

The other regents acted predictably. The Ox Killers had a grudge, and their regent banged his fist on the table in support of the Torchlight’s suggestion.  The Ja Cintos would eventually back her if she could make her case, and maybe the Long Berths. The DJs of the Sweetwaters needed the work to keep the clan happy, so they would be on board when it came time for a vote.

“We trusted the sun-dwellers’ promises before. It cost us everything. Why should we continue to support them?”  the Lightbearer, for someone with such a name, spent so much of his time focused on the darkness of the past. It was frustrating. She smoothed her skirts as the others chimed in. The Torchlight regent was unnerving, but they are family too, she reminded herself.

“I say just let them deal with the Firebrands on their own. We have our own issues to solve. The storm always passes.” The Long Berth captain spoke.  They had their own problems with the Junkerpunks, to be sure.

“The Great Wheel will turn our way again, my friends. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow.” Words of wisdom spoke from the greasy road captain, younger than his wisdom suggested. The DJ could be counted to come to her support. Momma Rabbit smiled fondly at the Sweetwater regent. They understood the need for allies in these times.  And he was always so careful to avoid leaving the coat of dust and grime, that perpetually seemed to follow him, on her nice table.

“This was the Queen’s will, long may she reign.” she reminded them. “Her vision is what brought us all together.”

For now.”  The Ox Killer regent spoke softly, but everyone heard his words.

She gasped. The Ox Killers could be so obstinate, but the challenge was clear.  His eyes glared at Shale, and she could see the Torchlight leader nodding too.

“The Queen is with us eternally, and especially right now. Whether you like it or not. Long live the Queen.” she replied.

The Ox Killer smiled viciously. His teeth were filthy. 

Long. Live. The. Queen.” he said with a smirk, drawing out each syllable in a mocking, frustrating way

Momma Rabbit puffed up, and struggled to maintain her composure.  She readied her best stern glare and prepared to rebuke the man.

Shale broke the tie before the argument could escalate.

“I understand your hesitation, but this helps the Tribes in the future.  The Queen has seen fit to choose each of you.” He looked pointedly at the Ox Killer regent, and continued. “But it appears that I am the deciding vote.”

Shale stood up, wearily, and pointed to the map in front of them.

“The further the RRC depends on the might of the Antler tribe and all of our combined strengths of the Tribes Disparate, the more prepared we are for our eventual rise. The world is changing, and we must be prepared for that new future. Let them build their railways. Let them focus on the ruins in the Bravado camp.  We have always been about our people, the common folk, and those that have been forgotten. It is through our differences we succeed, but it is through our Queen we triumph. Long may she reign.”

Prince Shale cast his gaze around the room, and each of the regents realized the truth of his words, one by one.  Even the Torchlights and the Ox Killers. No challenge would be accepted now.

Mother Rabbit beamed at Shale.  Another argument settled. The Tribes might fight, but they each meant well.

“Long live the queen!” The regents echoed, some more readily than others.

It was enough. United for now, their voices rang into the evening, and into a new future.


A Tribes Disparate Vignette by J. Loyd

Read more about the Houses of the Tribes Disparate here.

3.0 database updates, first event memos, advanced memberships, and fancy postcards!

3.0 Database Update

We hope you have all enjoyed experimenting with the 3.0 Character Builder so far! Thank you to everyone who helped us troubleshoot and pinpoint bugs and issues. We’re ready now to roll out the next iteration of the database that will contain some important updates, fix issues, and add greater functionality. As a result, there are some important things to note!

To facilitate implementing the new fixes, we will be doing a reset. Take screenshots/write down your character builds if you need to, as you will likely need to rebuild your character(s) post-reset.

On 9/14 all character drafts will be wiped. All XP build up until 9/14 will be updated in the player tool including advanced membership dates, total home events, and all 2.0 build.

Additionally, if your 2.0 database email was one you shared with another person, you may find that your email is also reset due to duplication. If you are still waiting on an email reset that never arrived, or any other issue, please contact us after 9/15 so that we can add a valid email address onto your account in the new system.

Pre-registration and Event Check-in

We are about two weeks out from our first game of 3.0! This is one of many reminders that pre-registration is currently open but will close at midnight on Friday, September 20th so that we can prepare your check-in packets. If you have not done so already, you can fill out a Background submission form and contract request form so that you can hit the ground running in 3.0 with ties to the factions you want (or don’t!).

Event check-in (where you can select your NPC/Casting shifts and all that good stuff) is coming soon. We will post that link and announce it here once it is available!

Season Opener Reminders

Reminder to folks who haven’t browsed the Living in Bravado section of the website yet, we have switched the buildings around!

The Dining Hall is now called The Depot and is the location for Logistics/Ops. This is where Opening Announcements will happen at 8pm on Friday. This is also where you will go to check-in when you get on site, report for your npc/casting shift, and New Players will meet here for New Player Orientation after Opening Announcements.

The Post Office is now in the front room of Kiva, now called The General Store. This is where you go for your in-character skill needs such as turning in salvage or making things as an artisan. After game-on, this is also where you will go for weapon-tagging and to receive replacement starter gear. The back room of Kiva is our Med Room/Decompression space still.

The top floor of Kiva is recommended for New Player sleep. As always, be courteous when reserving bunks for yourself and others. While no building is ‘attack-free’, players with OOC-sleep write-offs may find the most restful place to be Wikiup/The Dusthouse.

The Hopi building that was formerly Logistics is now The Hallows/The Morgue. We will be ringing the bell on site when characters die, which will be an indication that if you wish to use the skill Necrokinetics, you will head to Logistics prior to their Death Scene to ask if the player consents to the use of the skill. Once the death scene begins, we will not be adding participants.

We will be safety checking and re-tagging items at check-in. Now is the time to check that weapon you’ve had sitting in the back window of your car and make sure it’s still functional and safe! Texas heat is brutal on latex and foam, so don’t be surprised when you get to site and realize you need a new weapon! Check now and avoid the headache later.

Starter Gear

You can receive starter tags for the following for each character at check-in following a safety-check:

  • 1 Firearm or Bow

  • 1 Shield

  • 3 Melee Weapons (any combo)

  • 6 Thrown Weapons

  • 1 Unarmed Combat (a pair counts as one)

  • 1 Starter Armor (5 Armor Points)

Starter weapons do not require an item card, but do require a safety tag on the item. Starter gear always swings for base damage and cannot be crafted up. Starter Armor is always 5 points. This listed amount of items is to keep the check-in line moving first game. If for some reason you require additional starter gear, please wait until there is a low volume of players in line at Logistics (before game on) or Post Office (after game on) to request additional items. Starter weapons are free to any character at any time.

2.0 > 3.0 Item Conversion

If you have not converted your items from 2.0 > 3.0 yet, you can help make that process go faster by pre-counting your cards and putting them on these printable sheets:
2.0 Turn-in sheet
3.0 Item Request sheet

If you are doing large amounts of transfers, especially prints, please send us an email in advance so we can prep those ahead of time and save you time in line. info@dystopiarisingtx.com is the contact.

Offscreen Crafter & Survivor’s Talisman

If you are crafting items with Offscreen Crafter or requesting a Survivor’s Talisman, please fill out this form so we can do that tedious card-writing in advance! Everyone will be happier this way!

If you are doing large amounts of transfers, especially prints, please send us an email in advance so we can prep those ahead of time and save you time in line. info@dystopiarisingtx.com is the contact.

If you're doing a talisman, please look over the blueprint catalog available to download with the 3.0 rulebook on DriveThruRPG and have an idea of what you are interested in converting your item to. This will help cut down on time waiting in Ops while you decide what you want. If you have questions about what is allowed, please email us.

Rulebook and Blueprint Catalog are here

The Survivor's Talisman official write-up has been added to the trade-in store. For those of you who haven't transferred your items yet, this allows you to more directly preserve one 2.0 item that was meaningful to your character into a 3.0 equivalent. Details are here.

Event Schedule

Friday

3:00pm Site Opens and players can come on site

4:00pm Pre-Reg line opens

5:00pm On-site Registration opens

6:00pm New Player Guides are available in Logistics to help with New Players

8:00pm Opening Announcements outside of Logistics/Dining Hall

8:30pm New Player Orientation begins following Opening Announcements at Logistics. This leads into the New Player Mod at 9:00pm.

9:00pm Game On!

The Post Office will be open until 2am on Friday and Saturday night and opens at 8:00am on Saturday and Sunday. The Post Office closes at game-off on Sunday.

Sunday

12:00pm Game Off! Closing Announcements will be at the Bell at the Crossroads.

12:30pm Personal Cleanup begins

1:30pm Camp Cleanup begins

We all are tired at the end of the weekend so help your neighbors pack if you’re done with your section and we can all go home earlier!

Fancy Postcards!

bravado_postcard.png

We mayyyyy have had our super talented artist, Anastasia, make these really bad-ass postcards to celebrate the start of Bravado 3.0! We have 100 ordered, and they will be first come, first serve to players on site on Friday (and guaranteed in your packet if you pre-reg, so there’s more incentive to do that thing!).

Advanced Memberships

Advanced Memberships can now be purchased through our website directly. Check it out here!

Afternoon Tea

Her week went like this. 

Monday

Monday she met with Mrs. Robinson. The elderly woman’s hip was doing poorly and she thanked Clauthia for her bundle of willow bark by telling her to help herself to more of the peach conserves. They talked of the weather, and the Smythe’s new baby, and how the Railroad Commission was paying double for soft metal to help repair the Ox, oh, and Janine Ambrose’s garden was looking a bit untidy, and she’d had the worst toothache on Thursday so she’d brewed up a new tonic, would she like to take some? 

Tuesday

On Tuesday she followed the mariner’s march to Mr. Johanssen’s fishing shack. The spry fellow was in the middle of gutting his catch but he washed his hands and offered her a sip of hooch and they leaned against the pier and talked about the weather, and how the post was a bit late this week, and apparently there was some gossip about fires being seen in the woods at night, and his mother was feeling a bit poorly but it was likely just something she ‘et. Oh and...

“Saw a bit o’ plastic that reminded me of him yesterday - caught in my net it was.”

She stopped breathing for a minute as he fished a bit of flashy scrap from his bag.

“I was saying to Charity that your husband sure did have the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. We do miss him on our Lonestar Hold’em nights.”

Her “thank you” was thick in her throat as Clauthia slipped the bit of plastic into her satchel. 

Wednesday

Wednesday was Healer’s Day. She walked to the Hallows and worked her way down the line of needy assembled. A loaf of bread here, a bit of scrap there. She emptied her pockets into their dirty and desperate hands. When her pockets were empty she rolled up her sleeves and got to work, examining wounds for infection and teeth for caries. To a select few she gave what she kept in her bag, wrapped up between layers of gauze. Ampules of medicine and tonics to dull the pain. She ignored the bit of blue flashing up from the bottom, hearing Mrs. Atrophy's chiding in her mind the way it had every day of the last three years since her world had been turned upside down. Now is the time to work, not dwell on the past. 

Thursday

Thursday she noticed one of the carts on her lane was missing.

“Is Mx. Ambrose alright?” she leaned down next to one of the ladies working the overgrown garden patch out front. “They didn’t show up to Healer’s Day this week and I wanted to check on their stitches.” 

“Oh it’s you,” the woman glanced around nervously. “I suppose they just ain’t been around much this week. Said they had some business out towards Essex.”

“Nothing serious I hope?” 

“No no. Nothing serious. ”

“Well then, have a nice day.”

Friday

Friday she checked her empty mailbox and frowned. 

She checked her other mailbox, the one that looked like a rock. There was a note from Mrs. Atrophy with the time of their meeting that evening. She twitched her black veil down over her face and strode down the hill. 

Evening fell and the Widows gathered. Some wore veils as she did, others black bands on their sleeves, while still others wore no mourning colors at all but whispered the right words as they slipped into the gathering space. 

“The post is late.” she murmured. “And Mx. Ambrose is curiously absent. Mister Lackey, get a group together and look into it.”

“Yes Miss Clauthia.” their boyish face flashed a grin in the gloom and she could hear the cracking of their knuckles as they tapped companions to aid in their hunt. 

“Now then. Who else has news?”

Saturday

Saturday the weather was good. She sat at her table near the crossroads and poured herself a cup of tea. Braves came and went, some merely to pay respects, some to offer a bit of meal or brew to take to Healer’s Day. Others leaned close and passed whispers with the cream and sugar. At each tidbit, she nodded solemnly. All news was important. All words carried their own truths - sometimes they just took a bit longer to reveal themselves. 

The noon sun rose overhead and the shouts went up from the Gauntlet. Mister Lackey strolled over to her table carrying an oversized jar under his arm. They were muddy.

“What tea do you have for me today?” she smiled at the Widower. “Or is that the ruckus I hear?”

“No, no. This is no common hooch for the masses.” Lackey placed their jar on the table. 

“Ahh, I wondered if you’d find this vintage.” She spun the clear, heavy glass, watching the contents spin slowly. 

“It was just where you’d thought it’d be.”

“And the postman?”

Lackey frowned, “I was too late for that, I’m afraid. But…” they pulled out a stack of envelopes from their bag. “I did get the mail.”

“Good boy.” Clauthia smiled, tapping one finger on the glass. “I trust Mx. Ambrose learned their lesson?”

The severed head gaped at her sightlessly. 

“Oh yes.” Mr. Lackey nodded amiably. “They sure did.”

They watched the mail-thief swirl around a moment more.

“Well, I’m off to tell the Grave Council their new tax rate for the Ambrose family.” She smoothed her skirts as she rose, tucking the pickling jar under her arm. 

“And I’m off to deliver the mail.”

Lackey tipped their hat and they parted.

Sunday

Sunday dawned warm and drizzly. Clauthia watched the delvers trudging back to their tents, hungover and poor. It had been a productive week. Tomorrow she’d visit Mrs. Robinson and thank her for the tip-off about the Ambrose’s garden. 

She sipped her tea and smiled. 


A Widows of the Lonestar Vignette by A. Garcia