Tales from the Beowulf Saloon

A Harrowing Tale

Late in November, as the days were getting shorter and the nights colder, the bounty hunter Edward “Fast Eddie” Garrett arrived in town. He was rather surprised to find that there were no rooms free in any of the main hotels and guesthouses, and especially at the number of miners occupying those venues. He was informed that the winter was closing in and that the miners were taking up warmer quarters for the duration. He was only intending to stay for a week, but he hadn’t counted on the fact that the railroad would become impassable once the snows arrived. Looking for more likely accommodation, he moved on down Main Street, eventually arriving at the Beowulf Saloon. The place had been transformed, at least during the day, as Miss Hayes had decided to turn it into a part-time tearoom. The place looked darn near civilised!

Jon Hampden was sitting at a table outside the saloon, watching Brother Law “supervise” the installation of a sign on the nearly-finished church. He invited Garrett for a coffee and the stranger agreed. A few minutes after he sat down, a local shop worker turned up, yelling for Doctor Dupre. He was clutching a burlap bag, and the good doctor’s face fell as she realised what it likely contained. This was the fourth delivery of human bones in the last month and, sure enough, its contents helped complete the skeleton being assembled in a curtained-off area of her surgery.

Noting some angles that related to his own mission, Garrett took an interest and joined the discussion as to what might be going on. He revealed the existence of certain individuals who were effectively dead, but reanimated by spirits or demons. These beings, known as “The Harrowed” and subject to constant competition between their existing personalities and their new residents, ate raw meat to repair injuries and maintain their physical integrity. He also said he was hunting two of these creatures, intending to redeem or destroy them. The others felt that this was sufficiently related to the case that they should join forces.

They also pointed the visitor towards the guesthouse next door as possible winter accommodation.

Immediately after the discussion, Folden was approached by a representative from the fight club. A meeting was due the following evening, would he be interested? In dire need of money as usual, he agreed.

The next day, Law went off to find the hermit said to live near Injun Point, in the hopes of getting some information about his predecessor Pastor Smith’s death. He took a number of items, including food and blankets, that might help the hermit decide to talk to him. Finding his way into a maze of twisting narrow canyons (all alike), he reached the large boulder itself and called out to get the hermit’s attention. This worked, and a tall figure in a low-set hat and a duster appeared from a side canyon. Offering his goods, Law explained that he was hoping to talk and see if everything was ok. The hermit accepted his proposition and invited the preacher into his cave to have a drink. He turned out to be a very taciturn individual, wearing gloves and with his face in permanent shadow. The hermit says he doesn’t need the items Law brought, but accepts them anyway. The preacher is able to learn that when the hermit discovered Smith’s body, there were no Indian footprints, only bootprints, meaning he was likely killed by men from town wanting to make it look like an Indian attack.

When Law left the canyons, he became aware of the sound of stone on stone. He caught a glimpse of small skeletal shape and began to run, finally stumbling about a mile from town. Looking up, he saw a smaller version of the beast they destroyed a month before. He began praying for deliverance and the creature found itself blocked from getting to him. He continued praying as he regained his breath, then slowly raised “The Word” and blew the skeleton to pieces with a single shot. Believing that maybe the hermit was controlling it, he ran for town.

Meanwhile, Hampden went to check on the missing gambler, Lambert Connolly, as he hadn’t been seen for a month, but had not checked out of the Hotel. Convincing the manager that something odd was going on, the pair of them went up to his room with a pass-key. As soon as they unlocked the door, they were hit by the smell of rotten flesh. The room was covered in blood and a skinless corpse was sitting in the tin bath. There were no open windows and no other way for someone to leave, so the murderer had taken the key with them.

The manager went to call the Marshal, while Hampden brought in Dupre. There was no way to be certain of the identity of the victim, although they assumed it was Connolly, and no sign of any knife marks on the body (as would be expected from a skinning knife).

Garrett decided he would like to meet the hermit, feeling that he might be able to help with his mission as he obviously knew the area. Accompanied by the others, he headed out to Injun Point and called for the hermit. While he did not appear in person, a gravelly voice invited him into the narrow canyon previously visited by Law for a private meeting. Garrett did as asked and a bullet hitting the wall informed him that he had gone far enough. The hermit was waiting for him in the shadows further down the canyon.

The gunslinger explained his mission and his belief that the hermit may be one of the ones he was seeking, catching odd glimpses of long hair and moustache as the figure considered his statement. Deciding a gesture of trust was needed, he dropped his own disguise, revealing his status as one of the Harrowed. The hermit stepped out into the light and Garrett could see that he was right, the other had dried, rotted flesh and a large head wound.

He launched straight into the reason he was there, relating his employer’s offer of freedom from the manitou in exchange for service. The hermit considered this and declined, explaining that the manitou was not a problem, and pointing out that Garrett would stand no chance in a fight. He did, however, let him know that the other he sought was in town in “the hands of those who gamble on human lives”, and that he’d already lost his battle.

Garrett returned to the rest of the group, but forgot to reapply his disguise, so that they could see what he really looked like (basically vampiric, with a chest wound). Law could even see the penned-up demon wriggling around in his skull. He found he had to explain both his condition and his mission before they returned to town

Given this information, Folden told the others about his connection to the fight club, and the recent changes in the big fighter Kane, and they decided to investigate. Hampden remembered that he had a standing invite and decided to visit the next meeting, taking guests. Law felt he would not be welcome, but would sneak in taking advantage of the darkness.

Once they got there, they encountered a number of notables, including Chang and Swearengen. The former took the opportunity to talk to Folden and remind him that they had business. It was clear to all of them that something was wrong with Kane, who was locked in a solid iron cage. He seemed larger than before, was sweating despite the November cold and his eyes seemed to glow red; Law could see a demon not unlike Garrett’s, but in full control.

Folden got the idea that he could take Kane down, so that Garrett could work his magic and free him, but didn’t consult with anyone else, marching straight up to the organisers and challenging him direct. Seeing a good opening bout to get things started, they agreed and it was organised.

The fight lasted about three rounds, as Folden found himself unable to hurt the possessed bruiser and was beaten into a bruised pulp. Kane was returned to his cage and the programmed schedule began.

As Folden recovered, with a little help from Dupree, Garrett admitted that this had certainly confirmed that Kane was too far gone to save. The group decided their best option was to surreptitiously release the fighter, then take him down on the pretext of saving the town.

The plan went like clockwork: Kane got out and charged into the crowd, which promptly broke up and fled in different directions. Folden bravely dived in front of him and began trying to draw his rage, which worked well, much to his regret. The others stepped in as close as they dared, opening up with a barrage of charged stones and cards, as well as general gunfire, ably supported by Law from his bush. Garrett put the final shot in with his rather impressive rifle, blowing Kane’s head open.

There was little repercussion from the event. The organisers and their guests vanished into the night, leaving them with the corpse of Kane, a broken cage and a few scattered bottles.

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