August 11, 1829, 18:14:35 -
August 12, 1829, 06:41:02

- - Charlie Debrix passes on.

"Call that man Daron over here," he pointed through the tent as if he could compel the spirit towards him, "we need to talk."

Marcus quickly left his father's side and ran through the tall grasses around the wagon towards log stump Daron Hoobler sat upon. He sat fixed upon the task of keeping his pipe lit, which proved to be difficult in the presence of coastal wind.

"Daddy wantsta talk with you."

Daron looked up with a sudden smile, relieved to have a better distraction than getting the tobacco lit. The other riders continued tending to the food and fire but made pointed gazes at the pair as they walked away from the group. Little Marcus held his arms out, letting the strands of grass fold under his arms and giggled softly as he jumped through the flowing waves. Daron was tempted to glance behind him and see if they were casting a glare, but in truth he didn't really care - his decision to keep Debrix along in the first place caused reaction enough for him to know that they planned on abandoning them in the middle of the night, if not right as he enters the wagon where the dying man lied. Yesterday's chance meeting has already altered the course taken after months of planning for this escape, and the other people certainly did not want the additional risk to the journey. He watched the child swat at the cloth lining of the wagon and jumped in to hold it open; Daron removed his hat as he entered and knelt at Debrix's side. He leaned up slightly from his bed to meet Daron's glance, then reclined and closed his eyes before speaking.

Test One "I don't think I'ma make it through the night, man."

"You sure? We're just a day from Durham and -"

"Nah man I ... Jesus I can feel it, each minute's an hour and my memory's going."

Marcus lazily walked to the other side of the bed and kept a silent stare upon his father. Daron leaned in closer towards him, so that he could ease his voice to a whisper if needed. After a few breaths, Debrix's voice did in fact fail and didn't recover for the night; before disappearing, the loss of speech made him cough roughly for a minute.

"Now, don't tell this to no-one else out there -"

"Oh don't you worry, Charlie, appearently I ain't even on speakin' terms with them folks no more."

This drew a pause and smile from his lips before continuing.

" - but I've been sitting on it, and I couldn't tell anyone else because it'd spread and they'd split it ten ways to hell and my whole life will be fo shit. That many people from the start would just piss it in the wind, I think. Now, keep yo wits when I tell ya this, and hell, forever after. I've been sittin on ten thousand this whole time. Literally, it's under myself now."

Daron silently nodded and felt his face droop, catching his jaw from popping open at the mention of this bounty. This truly was a "Great Reward" that Charlie spoke of; ten thousand dollars meant more than having food and a place to stay - it meant land ownership, possibly on a large scale. He almost became lost in the distraction of imagining life on some vast farm, or something more, but was shocked to reality when a rasp cough preceeded the increasingly inaudible words.

" Daron, I want you to stay by me from here on out and be sure to find it before they do when I go and get put down. And keep ya goddamned head straight. Son." Marcus snapped his breath in attention, clasping his hands over those of his father.

"... I'm being punished for something I did. I didn't say "bad", tho, because this money will change your life," Debrix said through whispers and tears streaming from his eyes, "so maybe this's learnin ya that good comes with the bad. And you'll see, things wouldn't be bad if Daddy was smarter. So, that's what I want you to do. Smart things. Don't worry if they're what people say are right. Just do it smart." He clenched his mouth shut with a wry frown. "Okay?"

"Kay, Daddy."

Marcus leaned in and held his Dad, resting his head on the side upon Charlie's heaving chest. Daron caught himself staring at the scene before he coughed and refocussed his watch to the entrance of the wagon. The pair remained silent and had both of their eyes closed, resting with each other. Daron parted the flaps of the wagon and sat on the ground by the wagon, leaning his back upon the wooden frame.

"Call me if you need anythin mo."

Test Two Daron's request went unanswered as the sun set over the horizon and he nodded into a stasis of partial sleep, feeling moments become longer between every time that he blinked. After a while he became sobered by the sound of footsteps approaching and shook his head awake to see someone walking toward him. At once, Daron rose and clenched his fists in preparation for any sudden action, already feeling compelled to protect the money as if he was the one that stole it. However, the need for physical defense wasn't needed since it turned out to be Nat that was coming over.

"The hell ya doin up man? Shit you know Brandon's on watch at this hour."

"Debrix asked me to stay here till he goes."

"I'm tellin ya man, he was just shootin shit off to save his own ass and it's worse for us if he's tellin the truth. You can't trust a brotha with a fuckin gunshot wound, people don't shoot nobody for no good reason, not even us. For all we know his so called "riches" ain't shit but some fuggin silverware or some shit anyway. Besides, you runnin with us, you runnin from the man. Quit lettin people tell you what to do, shit."

With the last barb, Daron felt the blood tension rise within his skin but sighed out and waited before speaking, hoping to sound both calm and inconspicuous, not wanting to give away that he truly did in fact have a good reason to obey the man's orders. Instead, he pointed a finger at him and kept his gaze forward, not turning his head in reply, and held his volume in a forced whisper.

"Listen to yoself, Nat. That man is a brother, and he is dying, and he came to me for help. I would not leave him less I abandon all of my teachings and morals, and I'll be damned if you tell me not to obey some bastard so that I can obey you."

Nat held his hands upward and looked towards his feet, relenting in the argument. Daron dropped his arm and sighed twice before Nat turned his back and spoke while walking away.

"Just givin ya warnin, man. I'll be with the rest."

Daron squinted into the darkness and wathced Nat saunter away from his station, and continued to peer into the darkness and waited for his footsteps to become inaudible before he nodded his eyes downward again. After a few more blinks, he cracked his eyes open to see people gathering up their tents and collect their gatherings and persons into the second wagon as the sun rose, allowing only a foggy view of the scene. Rather than rise and object, Daron laughed in a hushed sigh and turned his head to the side, not wanting to watch as his plans, his so-called friends, and his future left him stranded in unknown wilderness. Hours later, the sun's bright heat forced Daron awake and he stood beside the wagon to find himself completely abandoned, left with naught but dead man, his son, the wagon they were sleeping in, and enough money to sustain one person for life.

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