Tales from the Beowulf Saloon

Dem bones

"It seems to be a large bird-like creature capable of leaping a long distance." "You mean it's a giant chicken on a pogo stick?"

In the evening following the fight in Boot Hill, a wake took place at the Saloon. Most of the regulars were present, along with a small number of well-wishers from elsewhere, many of them congratulating the posse on either avenging Sorrenson’s death or eliminating a clear menace.

Hawkeye, meanwhile, was carrying out his evening rituals in the hills above the town. While doing so, he became aware of what appeared to be a large, fresh footprint in the soil nearby. It looked very odd to him, resembling a bird’s foot, but belonging to a very large bird. Upon locating a couple more prints, he came to the conclusion that the creature would be taller than a man and three times that in length. Heaving a sigh, he finished his ritual and headed for the nearest permanent Sioux encampment.

Back at the Saloon, Pastor Law was approached by Marshal Bullock. The Marshal congratulated the group on their success that day, then quietly informed him that they would have to be arraigned on charges of conspiracy and murder, regarding Senorita Delgato. Law was a bit surprised by this, but Bullock was clear that it was probably just a formality: vigilante action was never something to be encouraged, especially in a frontier community like this, but, given the circumstances, there should be no trouble. The district judge would be arriving later that week and the trial would be held at his discretion.

As the group were a little too drunk and/or in mourning to do anything about it then, they decided to look into doing something the next day. Hawkeye, apparently uninvolved in the whole event, decided to let the paleskins sort it out by themselves.

Folden was approached for another cage fight: being in need of money, as usual, he accepted, being told to be at the usual location at midnight. When he turned up, he found that his opponent was one of the newer prospectors, who seemed to prefer straightforward wrestling. The fight was over very quickly: the miner charged Folden with his arms outstretched and was promptly punched in the face, breaking his nose. He went down and Folden had his first ever victory, much to the irritation of the attending gamblers, most of whom lost a lot of money.

He then sat back to watch Kane take on one of the better trained Chinese labourers. This fight went on for a lot longer, as both fighters sized up the other. The Chinese man began scoring a number of solid hits, none of which seemed to impress Kane much, before launching into a classic flying kick. The blow landed squarely in the bigger man’s face, hard enough to snap his neck, so that Kane fell immediately.

Folden, who had developed a liking for Kane, was about to take on his opponent since he had deliberately used a killing move, when the downed fighter slowly got to his feet again. Kane performed the classic neck-straightening manoeuvre, walked over to the astounded kung-fu expert and kicked him in the thigh, breaking his leg instantly. The fight was over and Kane was awarded the victory.

Concerned about the potential fallout from the upcoming trial, Hampden approached Al Swearengen for help on the Monday. After a brief discussion, he agreed to pull in a few favours to help out. Hampden did not ask what those would be, on the basis that not knowing was probably safer.

Approaching the Sioux winter encampment cautiously, Hawkeye was met by guards and escorted to the group’s shaman, an elderly man with a lot of experience of the Black Hills. He said they had come across nothing like this footprint before, but that they would send a large scouting party out to find out what had happened.

The judge arrived on the Thursday morning and was not the dissolute drunk Hampden had been hoping for. He held court in the bar of the Grand Central Hotel that afternoon and the hearing moved through its formal stages quite smoothly. Law took the opportunity to tell the whole story as a statement on behalf of the posse, emphasising Delgato’s demonic nature, her unsavoury occupation and the nature of her premises, the unexplained deaths and the fact that a number of people saw her reflection in the mirror. The town, in the form of Bullock, put up little opposition, and the jury voted unanimously for an innocent verdict. The fact that they were nearly all employees of Al Swearengen probably helped.

That same afternoon, Hawkeye took to the air to see if the Sioux scouting party had discovered anything. He noticed them approaching a clear area near a low lying line of loose rocks. It was only as he got closer that he noticed the rocks move, forming what appeared to be a 20-foot long bird-like skeleton. Before he could warn the scouts, the skeleton leapt across the clearing and tore into them, using its jaws and a pair of vicious claws on its feet. The Indians were all dead within seconds and the creature moved off, apparently uninterested in eating them. Hawkeye immediately headed back to the encampment to warn the shaman of the danger, before looking for the posse back in Deadwood.

A regular patron of the bar approached Dupre, carrying a dirty canvas bag. “I think you need to see this,” he said and opened it for her to see the contents. They appeared to be a set of bones. The doctor rapidly ascertained that they were human, specifically those of a left leg. What was more, they were fresh and seemed to have been gnawed by human teeth. Dupre went out to the Creek to see where the bag had been discovered and look for other remains, but was unable to find any. Given the current circumstances, she decided not to pursue this just yet.

Hawkeye turned up in the saloon, looking for the posse’s help dealing with the animated skeleton. They were reluctant to get involved, given that it sounded very dangerous and was a ways from town, but were persuaded that they were the best ones for the job. Hampden and Dupre realised it was probably the stone skeleton of one of the ancient “dinosaurs” that were being discovered nearby, presumably animated by magic or some kind of spirit. If it was made of stone, it was going to take a lot of work to destroy and from what it did to the Indian scouts, it was going to cause a lot of damage in the meantime, so this needed to happen as soon as possible. After much discussion, they came up with a plan to bait into the vicinity of some dynamite and blow it up. Hampden had learnt a new trick and was convinced he could set off dynamite at range with it.

Gathering up half-a-dozen sticks of dynamite, a dummy to use as bait and a horse, they headed into the hills to find a convenient ravine. The dummy was set up in a narrow defile in front of a barrel containing the dynamite. Folden drew the short straw and rode out to find the beast, while the others ranged themselves along the cliffs above the defile.

The plan worked almost perfectly. Folden found the skeleton, which promptly chased him, and rode towards the ravine on his horse. The creature almost caught him, as he zipped through the defile, clinging on for dear life, but was distracted by the dummy. Hampden then triggered the dynamite and the blast was very impressive. The skeleton was totally destroyed and Folden, now 70 feet away, was nearly hit by flying chips of stone. Unfortunately, they’d failed to take into account the effect of such a large blast on the surrounding terrain: the sides of the ravine collapsed, while they desperately scrambled out of the way. Hawkeye was unable to escape and was nearly killed by the landslide, then had to face the ignominy of being saved by the white man’s medicine (and holy magic). He was duly grateful, but muttered darkly about the penances he would have to enact.

[The telling of the tale qualified the posse for a legend chip as per the Deadlands Reloaded rules.]

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