The old Indian shaman known only as Hawkeye watched the smoke-breathing iron contraption of the white man arrive in the town from a nearby hilltop. He shrugged to himself before returning to his daily rituals.
At the station, Doctor Alexandre Dupre was waiting for a delivery of medical supplies. She watched as a tall, thin man in a black coat alighted from the train and looked around for a porter. There was no such individual, but young Theo Mooney, the ten-year-old son of the station master, was only to happy to help … for a small fee. The man in black promised him a nickel if he would carry his trunk to the Grand Central Hotel. Unfortunately for Theo, the trunk was almost as big as he was.
Dr Dupre approached the stranger and introduced herself as one of Deadwood’s doctors and the town’s only vet. The stranger introduced himself as Pastor Jonam Law, newly-arrived to assist the community’s Methodist minister, Henry Weston Smith, in his work.
Dr Dupre looked concerned at this and informed him of Smith’s death at the hands of unknown individuals earlier this year. Law replied that maybe it was the Lord’s will that he take his place.
Having taken delivery of her supplies from the station master, Dr Dupre offered to guide Pastor Law to the Hotel. The trip was short and they passed young Theo, still struggling with the preacher’s trunk, on the way. They stopped for a drink and a light meal and Dr Dupre brought the newcomer up to date on recent events, including his predecessor’s unfortunate demise. Law brought up the subject of the town’s church and Dr Dupre offered to show him the site of the still-unfinished building.
Well-known gambler Jon Hampden III was breaking his fast in the Beowulf Saloon, watched over by the establishment’s dedicated bouncer, Jonas Folden. Folden watched everything Hampden did with a level of suspicion that belied their long association. Dr Dupre and the Pastor arrived outside, where the latter was somewhat floored to discover that the church, under construction for several years, apparently consisted of the frame of a clock and bell tower. Dr Dupre explained that Smith had been short of funds and parishioners.
Hawkeye, meanwhile, was walking the hills near the Robineau Mine. Hearing shouts for help, he headed in that direction, arriving in time to see one of the Robineau brothers exiting the mine, pursued by something possessed of larger claws. He was unable to see more of the being, because it did not emerge into the daylight. Robineau (Robert if he remembered correctly) emptied his gun into the dark opening before fleeing towards Deadwood.
Hawkeye decided to arrange a welcome for the distressed miner and, changing into a hawk, flew down to the saloon. Changing back into his human form, he hobbled around the corner just as Robineau came staggering down the street shouting about giant bugs that ate his brother in the mine. The old Indian headed into the saloon ahead of the miner, ignored Folden’s attempt to bar him and attempted to arrange for coffee and food to be ready.
Robineau fetched up short of the entrance, peering inside in a suspicious fashion and yelling about giant bugs. Dr Dupre and Hampden dragged him inside and attempted to calm him down; he ignored the coffee and went through several glasses of whiskey at high speed. He was also reacting in a jumpy fashion to any shadows, firing several (non-existent) rounds from his empty Colt at the door to the kitchen. Eventually, they got the story out of him: he and his brother Jacob had been working on a new ghost rock seam in the south gallery and had knocked a hole into a new chamber. Almost before they could react, large claws had reached out of the hole and grabbed Jacob by the head, pulling him into the hole. The hole was smaller than him and the results were predictably unpleasant. A giant bug had then emerged from the hole and attempted to attack Robert, who fled immediately.
Those present selflessly decided to investigate. Even if the whole thing was a madman’s ramblings, there was someone apparently trapped in the mine. While Dr Dupree gathered weapons and her medical kit, Folden and Hampden organised a wagon, and the Pastor decided to pay a visit to the Town Marshal, Seth Bullock, to introduce himself and see if he would send some deputies over to help the investigation. Unfortunately, the laconic lawman seemed to be of the opinion that mines outside the immediate borders of the town were outside his jurisdiction. He did, however, approve the formation of an unofficial posse to rescue Jacob Robineau. By the time he returned, the rest of the group were ready to go, with Hampden and Hawkeye on a small trap, ready to go the 3 miles to the mine. He grabbed his shotgun and joined them.
It was a rough road, but they arrived in around 40 minutes and began to investigate the box canyon in which the mine sat. There was a locked storage shed next to the entrance, which was very dark, even in the noon sun. They could see deep scores on the ground and the wooden frame of the entrance; Hawkeye examined them and, calling on his extensive familiarity with the local wildlife, ventured the possibility that they could have been made by racoons…
Grabbing lanterns from the walls, they entered the mine cautiously, advancing a short way to a t-junction. Recalling Robineau’s description of working on the south gallery, they ventured left and almost immediately discovered a boot, containing a disembodied foot. Hawkeye found the site a mite distressing and decided to leave rather precipitously. The others fought down their bile and moved onwards.
At this point, they began to become aware of glints of light from further down the tunnel. The glints gradually resolved into many-faceted reflections from the eyes of an enormous beetle-like creature, black as night. As it began to charge towards them, Pastor Law began a hurried prayer to the Almighty, entreating His help in protecting his children. The creature slowed to a stop, apparently reluctant to come any closer. Hawkeye had, by this point, overcome his fear and returned to the group and was able to establish some kind of mystic contact with the giant bug, discovering that it was unintelligent and very hungry, and loved meat. The posse followed it down the tunnel, Folden hurling stones at it, while the others discharged an assortment of firearms into its carapace. It died swiftly, allowing them to inspect its remains. Dr Dupre, ever curious, began to pull off limbs for later examination, but the preacher had discovered a hole in the wall.
Worryingly, the antennae of another critter could be seen emerging from the opening. The posse reacted like a well-oiled machine and the giant bug died in a hail of bullets and stones – along with what appeared to be a trio of playing cards from Hampden, which sliced through the joints in its armour. Working quickly, they shoved the remains back into the hole, blocking it while they figured out what to do next, but something began to push them back out very quickly…
They resolved to bring down the ceiling.
Law went outside to look for more tools and dynamite in the shed, while the others grabbed the two pickaxes lying on the floor and began hacking at roof supports. The preacher was unable to find any dynamite (later learning that this was a bad idea around ghost rock), and rejoined the posse with more hammers and axes. Dr Dupre stayed alert for more critters while the others worked and, despite a couple of missteps and a series of emerging bugs, they finally dislodged the ceiling brace. A creaking noise alerted them to an impending collapse and they bolted for the open air.
As a cloud of dust billowed out of the tunnel entrance, they saw a ghostly figure form out of the dust, before turning into a skeleton and blowing away…