Tales from the Beowulf Saloon

Welcome to Deadwood!
"So this isn't a PG then?"

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…

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The Johnson Family Massacre
"I'm calling him 'Boxes with Wolves'", Hawkeye

Returning from the Robineau Mine, the group had to decide what to do with the remains of the giant bug they had brought back. Various ideas were pitched, including selling it to the curio shop (they really didn’t want it), nailing it to the signboard for the Beowulf itself (nixed by Sorrenson) and dissecting it for Science! The last was Dr Dupre’s idea and was pretty much what happened: she established that it would have injected eggs rather than poison into its victims, which turned certain members of the group green for some reason. She initially planned to experiment with the eggs, implanting them into a chicken to see how long they would take to grow, but then decided that wasn’t really a nice or safe thing to do. She decided to destroy them instead.

While all this was going on, Law and Hampden were distracted by activity further up the street, where the Johnson family was loading up a Conestoga wagon with all their worldly goods. The husband and wife were arguing about the speed of the loading.

Law approached to find out what they were doing and was informed that they had failed to establish themselves in Deadwood properly and had decided to return to Illinois. When asked why they were using a wagon and not the train, Mr Johnson replied that they no longer had the cash to buy a ticket out of town. Hampden nodded knowingly at this, the Black Dragon Railroad Company charged much more for outbound tickets than it did for inbound, knowing that the Sioux Nations had banned overland travel for non-natives.

Marshal Bullock had arrived at this point and resumed what was apparently a well-established argument by waving a handful of bills at them and demanding to buy them tickets. At this point, Mrs Johnson replied that, as good Christian people, they would accept no charity. Bullock pointed out that he would not be able to protect them outside of Deadwood, and they accepted this.

Law said that he thought this was a really bad idea, but Hawkeye indicated that he thought the local Indians would let a family obviously leaving the area through unmolested. As they left town, he remotely followed them borrowing the eyes of a local hawk to make sure they would be ok, giving up only as his hawk became tired at sundown.

Law was planning to begin his mission in the town with a good-old-fashioned Revival-esque service at the site of the church the following day. He wrote up a small number of flyers and headed across town to post them in various places, while also looking for potential paying jobs. He managed to find places to post the flyers and, while he was unable to find any kind of regular-paying job, he did discover that there was a shortage of sufficiently-educated people to handle clerical jobs around town, including notary work and contract-writing, on a per-job basis. He made some good contacts for later jobs.

Meanwhile, the saloon was starting to fill up for the evening rush, and Folden had to get to work manning the door. He became more alert as a known troublemaker arrived at the saloon. The gentleman in question was known to be a mite difficult when losing games, so it was a concern when he approached Hampden’s gaming table, where they were currently playing Faro, which the gambler found tedious but profitable. As more players arrived though, he was happy to get a poker game going.

It was at this point that a newcomer arrived, nearly 7 feet tall and built like a grizzly bear, demanding access to the poker game. Hampden let him in and they played a few hands, then the troublemaker accused the big man of cheating. Hampden tried to calm them down, but when Folden ordered them outside, they had a shootout in the street. The troublemaker was killed, prompting the appearance of the local undertaker, while his opponent was shot in the shoulder. Dr Dupre treated him, but demanded immediate payment, being thwarted only when it was discovered all of the man’s money was in the poker pot, forcing her to wait.

Later that evening, a local trapper (or vagrant, depending on who you asked) showed up, saying he had seen the remains of a family in a conestoga, massacred a few miles along the trail out of Deadwood. He said he had seen four bodies and that it looked like the “Injuns” had done it. He was quizzed on whether there was a fifth corpse (“thar mite have bin, too many pieces t’be sure”), but the group decided to put off any investigation until the morning as it was too dangerous.

They were up early the following morning, and Burton turned up to tell them the location, but refused to come along. Once again, they hired a cart and headed north out of town.

Before long, they realised they were being paced by a pack of wolves. Rather than risk being worn down by a pursuit, they decided to take a stand. Law went to calm the horses down, while Hawkeye attempted to make contact with the leader to drive it off and the others readied their weapons. NIne wolves attacked: Law was flattened almost immediately and Hawkeye was injured, then the posse got to retaliate. The most damage was done by Folden who demonstrated an interesting technique of beating the beasts to death with his bare fists (albeit aided by knuckledusters). Hawkeye managed to establish contact with the leader, which seemed somewhat brighter and bigger than he expected, and managed to turn it against the others, which resulted in it throwing the one next to it into the clearing with its back broken. The beast bounded across the clearing a moment later, paralysing Dr Dupre with fright – she was not ready for its sheer size! By this point, most of the attackers were dead and the leader was wreaking havoc among the survivors, so the fight was over. Dupre was able to help Law, but Hawkeye refused all but the most basic attention from her modern medicine,

An hour later, they arrived at the site of the alleged massacre, discovering that it was definitely not “alleged”. There were body parts strewn everywhere and everybody had a bad reaction to the sight. Once they were able, they counted body parts and decided that one of the family was definitely missing. Hawkeye was of the opinion it was not an Indian attack. Hampden went hunting and found the youngest girl in a hollow near a rock, scared out of her wits. Law managed to calm her down, but before they could get any useful information out of her, a voice from across the clearing said “I’m glad you found her, I was getting hungry!”

It turned out to be Burton, accompanied by two other individuals. A moment later, all three had changed appearance to look more gaunt, showing vicious fangs, and were charging the group.

As it transpired, the battle was over very quickly. Burton attacked and injured Hawkeye, but Folden began to beat him to a pulp. Hawkeye transformed into a hawk, looking out for more attackers and maybe getting some help from the remaining wolves! Hampden was confronted by one of the others and Dealt with the Devil in order to take it down with an overcharged bolt spell. Dupre and Law were attacked by the third, and Dupre showed that these creatures were difficult to kill without magic, as it took a full shotgun blast in the face without flinching. Law blessed his own weapon, The Word, and unleashed an enhanced blast on the thing, disintegrating it in a burst of light. Hampden was in a small spot of trouble, he’d used two jokers in his poker hand for the Deal and was being attacked by a manitou. He beat it, but it exhausted him.

They decided they needed to get the girl home, and would send people to pick up the bodies later, so they used the remains of the wagon to cover them up. On the way back to Deadwood, they were confronted by a group of Sioux braves, but Hawkeye spoke directly to their shaman, warning them of the presence of the creatures. The Indians heeded the warning and granted them safe passage back and to recover the bodies.

On returning to the town, Dupre took care of the girl and a posse was organised to recover the bodies for burial, accompanied by Hawkeye as the guide.

Law held his service on the grounds designated for the church at around noon. He got about 20 attendees and proceed to give them a bible-thumping sermon using the Temptation of Christ to warn against those bringing false miracles, a not-too-subtle first shot against his nemesis, Ezekiah Grimme of the City of Lost Angels.

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Lovers' Quarrel

Members of the posse were in the saloon one evening when a number of notable events happened.

The first was the arrival of two unusual individuals: one was Kane, the thug who’d killed a fellow card player in a duel over cheating a few weeks earlier. This caused a certain amount of trepidation for both Hampden and Folden, who had faced him in different arenas on that occasion. The other was known to Hampden, a notorious professional poker player named Lambert Connolly. Although he looked likely to bring in lots of spectators and their business, Hampden was worried that he personally could lose a large portion of his income. His fears began to come true as the newcomer won a significant portion of the pot that evening.

Folden, meanwhile, was approached by a seedy-looking individual and asked if he was interested in making some money with his fighting skills. Folden, perpetually broke, was definitely interested, and was told to meet the man outside the town once he’d finished work the next evening. He agreed.

Around 10 in the evening, the banging of a gun butt on the bar brought a temporary silence, as Jenson Sorrenson, the owner of the Beowulf, stood up to make an announcement. Surprising no-one who knew him well, he was getting engaged to be married, to one Magdelene “Maddie” Hayes, newly-arrived in the last month, but frequently seen in his company. There was a round of applause, and of free drinks, before the saloon returned to its normal hubbub.

The next day, Folden discovered that an old nemesis was in town. Chang Tsun-chung arrived in Chinatown and immediately made a name for himself by facing down and defeating half-a-dozen of Kang’s thugs. Although none of the posse had encountered him since his arrival, witnesses said he was a spectacular fighter in the “Chinese manner”.

Hawkeye, meanwhile, found a fresh-ish corpse and a pile of human bones in a narrow gully, with tracks leading up to them. Concluding that they had been dumped there, he headed into town to get the others to take a look. They joined him and they determined that they were indeed brought here by someone else, being flung off the nearby ridge. The bones were obviously months old, the corpse a week or so, and both were of white men. Although they arranged for a decent Christian burial for the bones, there was little the posse could do about them.

That night, Folden made his way to the designated location, where he found a circle of spectators standing around a makeshift boxing ring. It turned out to be a prize-fighting event, currently banned by local ordinance, but the money for the victors was very good, plus he would be allowed to bet on the outcome of his and other fights. Folden decided to give it a try and found himself facing a local bruiser. The fight was very close, but he was beaten in the end. Returning to Deadwood, he sought out treatment from Dupre the following morning, although he wouldn’t say what the cause was.

The following morning, Folden was just turning up for work, somewhat the worse for wear and Hampden was settling in for breakfast when the chef, Fan Xiaowen, came in claiming that Sorrenson was dead. Hampden and Dupre, who had followed Folden in to the saloon, went to Sorrenson’s room to investigate, finding that Marshal Bullock and Doctor Ernest Roberts, a professional rival of Dupre’s, had already removed the body.

They headed over to Roberts’s office and found one of Bullock’s deputies barring entrance. They bullied their way past and found that Roberts had just completed an inconclusive autopsy. He had come to the conclusion that Sorrenson had died of a heart-attack, which was his initial appraisal. Dupre managed to catch a glimpse of the corpse: it looked so dried out that it was practically mummified! Roberts had no answer to this and said he’d seen nothing like it before.

A little later, Pastor Law found Maddie Hayes praying in the unfinished church. She was very upset so he attempted to comfort her, discovering that she did not agree with Roberts’s conclusions, because Sorrenson had been as “strong as an ox”.

That evening, Hampden found that Connolly’s game was going downhill rapidly. After several bets that would have disgraced a newcomer, the pro begged off with fatigue and returned to the Grand Central. Hampden, while grateful for the return of most of his losses, was suspicious at the change in circumstances and decided to follow him back to the hotel. He and Law hung around in the Grand Central’s saloon for a long time that evening, but saw little of interest.

At midnight, Folden had his second fight, this time going up against Kane. He was beaten badly, leaving the good Doctor very suspicious as to what was going on.

At this point, a seedy-looking man approached them, nervously introducing himself as Buck Travis, the former editor of the Deadwood Chronicle (now out of business), he thought they might like to see some useful evidence. They agreed and he took them back to the old newspaper offices, where he produced some photographs of typical street scenes from six months earlier. In one picture, Sorrenson could be seen, accompanied by a woman of Mexican appearance. Travis explained that she was Maria Delgato, the owner of the High Time Saloon. She and Sorrenson were close for most of the year, but that their friendship appeared to have ended about a month ago, when Hayes arrived in town. He then showed them a close-up of the couple, and they were astonished to see that she appeared to have short horns on her forehead and leathery wings growing from her shoulders. Travis was adamant that they only showed up in the picture when he developed it – he’d never seen any sign of them in person.

He also pointed out that five miners had died of apparent heart attacks in the last few weeks. All were examined by Roberts and buried quickly and in private.

Law mused that there are Church books that describe demons who take the form of women and seduce men. He’d never believed writings, but they bore a striking resemblance.

Law and Hampden decided to investigate the High Time. It was a saloon and bordello on the south side of the town, competing with the Gem Saloon (and therefore not popular with Al Swearingen). Although several prostitutes were resident there (something Sorrenson was always keen to avoid), they were loyal and the place had a reputation for looking after them. The first thing that the visitors noticed was that there no external windows or mirrors, and that drinks were served in pewter goblets.

Dupre and Folden joined them a little later, as they chatted to the barkeep, Zeke Clemens (who turned out to be fiercely loyal to his employer). He would say little about her other than that she was a good boss and looked after her girls. He never explained the lack of glass in the building. Around this time, Delgato made a personal appearance, looking every inch the elegant Mexican noblewoman.

Clemens spoke to her and she came over to the posse’s table. The heroes chatted briefly then brought up the subject of Sorrenson’s death and her history with him. While she was happy to admit that she had been involved with him for nearly a year, she denied any connection with his death, offering instead the idea that Hayes was responsible, having stolen him away from her in the first place. Meanwhile, Dupre managed to arrange things so that she could see her in her pocket mirror – finding that she did indeed have wings and horns, as well as an arrow-headed tail peaking out from under her skirt.

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High Noon at the High Time
"They scalped Bigfoot!"

Following their encounter with Senorita Delgato, the posse decided it was time to leave the High Time Saloon.

Heading back into the centre of Deadwood, they headed for the Marshal’s office, intending to convince him of Delgato’s true nature. Unfortunately, Seth Bullock, a man already seen to be reluctant to deal with anything outside his narrow view of his responsibilities. Although they explained the situation and showed him the photographs, he remained unconvinced, saying he could not take down a pillar of local society on the basis of an unexplained corpse and a potentially-doctored photograph.

As they argued with him, there was a shout from outside: one of the deputies had found another body. Bullock dismissed the team and headed out to see what had been found. They followed him to Deadwood Creek, where several deputies were cordoning off an area around a bloody body. Miss Dupre was able to get closer, on account of her profession, and realised that the victim had been totally skinned. Despite several attempts, it was not possible to identify the unfortunate, only that it was male and of average height and build.

Hawkeye also managed to get closer and found the whole thing brought up some very worrying memories.

Pastor Law was later approached by Miss Hayes, who asked him to organise a funeral for Sorrenson. Law agreed as it was part of his duty to his flock, but also because he could see an opportunity to flush out Delgato. The group spent the next few hours planning and debating tactics. Ultimately, it was decided to go ahead, using a mirror to expose her to all the attendees. Further debate resulted in the decision to place it within the lid of the coffin.

The funeral service took place immediately after the Sunday service, in order to ensure as large a congregation as possible. The coffin, along with two others containing the unknown bodies found by Hawkeye in the hills, was set up near the table at the head of the half-built church. The majority of the posse (except Hawkeye, who kept away, and the pastor) stood with the deceased’s fiancée. The town’s great and good (and others) had turned out to mourn the passing of one of the community’s pillars, including Al Swearengen, Bullock, Doc Roberts and several representatives of the Chinese community. Delgato also made an appearance, but stayed near the back of the church.

Law attempted to introduce a new “tradition” of touching the coffin, in order to get everyone to come near the mirror, but Delgato declined to take part, so he was forced to put off the big reveal.

Following the service, most of the congregation accompanied the coffins to the newly-dug plots on Boot Hill. The final committal went smoothly and the attendees began filing past to drop soil on the coffin, this time including Delgato. As she arrived, Law jumped into the grave, hauling up the coffin lid to reveal Sorrenson’s corpse and the mirror.

Several people saw her true face revealed, and more pressed into see why they were reeling back in shock. Many of them fled immediately and Delgato went berserk.

Law and Dupre opened combat with their shotguns but had no effect, while Folden leapt into a kung-fu attack and Hampden hit her with one of his magical playing cards. That last hurt her, but the succubus retaliated by using her supernatural abilities to charm Folden into defending her: he launched himself across the open grave towards the unfortunate gambler.

Law took the opportunity to bless his weapon and fired again, but she shrugged off the damage. Hawkeye, meanwhile, attempted to ward Folden off from Hampden. The bouncer was able to recover his wits and legged it back towards Delgato.

Folden and Law began to hammer the succubus, while Dupre began desperately calling for help. Swearengen turned back with his own posse of enforcers and opened fire. Although his men’s guns had no effect, his own Chinese jade revolver was made of sterner stuff. It inflicted enough damage that she decided to make a run for it (although not flying – the wings appeared to be spirit only).

Law called on the power of the Lord and managed to trip her, so that she fell into an open grave, then Folden pelted her with chi-enhanced stones. Nearly beaten, she tried to get to her feet and climb out, but Swearengen stepped up and put another bullet through her head.

She promptly vanished in a purple flame, giving off a foul smelling oily smoke.

Swearengen turned to the heroes and told them he was impressed. They had an ally against these supernatural beasts who would help them when needed.

/Note: Swearengen’s return was due to the play of a reinforcements card from the Adventure Deck. Tripping into the grave was the result of the Entanglement power – normally not allowed due to the lack of vegetation in that area/

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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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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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Visions of chaos

Over the last month, Hawkeye had been meditating and purging his spirit in order to regain his connection to the spirit world following his unwilling healing at the hands of both white medicine and religion. Everything was beginning to come back into focus when he approached the cliffs overlooking the “Screaming Fire” (known to the Deadwood residents as “Satan’s Garden”) and he had become more acutely aware of a distinct wrongness lying across the whole of the Black Hills.

While sitting in the smoke and heat, his perception of the world flipped: 

Flying, the Black Hills below, high enough to see them all 
The Hills are dark green, vibrant, but… 
Below them is something black and festering 
It underlies the whole range, apparently contained 
.
Four immense beings stand on the horizons: 
To the southwest, a slavering coyote, drenched in blood 
To the north west, a capering spider-shape, apparently made out of metal, belching smoke 
To the northeast, a brooding human, wearing the robes of a Sioux shaman 
To the southeast, a human skeleton, dressed in the clothes of a cowboy, bearing two smoking guns 
All are watching figures scurrying around their feet, corrupting the land in bits 
.
Three men conversing: 
A man with a black hole where his heart should be, bent on vengeance 
A fat man, his fingers covered in grease, possessed of immense greed 
An Indian, with no face and … no purpose? 
.
They agree on something 
.
The blackness below surges up through the mines cut into their sides, and floods throughout the valleys, absorbing everything it touches 
It spreads rapidly on to the plains in all directions, taking even the giant watchers by surprise 
.
The world drowns in it… 

He awakened with a start on the cliffs, and immediately made the journey to Deadwood as fast as he could.

Dr Dupre had begun to notice an increasing number of people going down with an unidentified illness. They had all the usual flu-type symptoms, along with painful red sores, but were not responding to any kind of treatment. She tried to compare notes with the other doctors in town, but ran into a problem she had encountered before: they refused to allow that her Canadian medical qualifications made her a real doctor. Deciding to carry on her research on her own, she took careful notes of the development of the symptoms and looked for common factors among the patients.

As more patients turned up, she realised that all of them were either based in one of the mines in the valley known as Broken Axle Gulch, or had associated with someone who had. The earliest cases were all miners who had arrived for the winter as the snow began to settle in. She decided she needed to pay a visit to the valley to see if there was an obvious cause and, on talking to the others, a trip was arranged, including Hampden, Folden and Garrett. It was a day’s trip each way, so they planned to set out the following morning, intending to spend the night there.

At this point, Hawkeye arrived in Deadwood, going straight into the saloon and asking for alcohol – to the surprise of everyone who knew him.

Once he had recovered, he explained to the others what he had seen, omitting some details. While the specifics were unclear, he knew that something was deeply wrong in the area, and he believed that it was involved with the nameless evil he had encountered in his previous visits to the town. Hampden suggested that this evil might be connected to the mystery of Connolly and described what they had found at the hotel.

This led the shaman to explain his belief that a being known as a naagloshi or “skin walker”, a native sorcerer who had made pacts with dark spirits to achieve great power, had arrived in town. Skin walkers had given up their very identity to their masters and so, having none of their own, stole the identities of others. There was some confusion as to why the creature would have taken Connolly as a host then done so badly at the gambling, but Hawkeye suggested that he may not have realised how much skill went in to being a good player. Given time, the skin walker could have learned to use its new capabilities properly, but it didn’t have that time.

Of course, with Connolly dead, this revelation wasn’t much use unless they could figure out the skin walker’s current identity. Hampden decided it would help if Hawkeye could visit the room where they discovered the skinless body the week before; maybe he could use his “Injun powers” to find out something useful? They headed down to the Grand Central Hotel and got permission to visit the room. It had been cleaned up but for some reason no-one was interested in renting it, despite the dire need for accommodation that winter.

Hawkeye went in alone while Hampden kept the door clear of the curious. Examining the room, he found little of interest, except for the ingrained blood stain around the former location of the bathtub. Laying out the appropriate ritual and settling down onto the floor, he willed himself into a trance to try to get some kind of glimpse of the recent past. This was successful, but he was almost overwhelmed by a rapid progression of different images of the room’s occupants over the last couple of years (and of the trees from before).

Gradually, he became aware of one constant, a small humanoid figure wearing the clothing of the white man. The figure appeared to be aware of his presence and was watching him. He addressed it directly and managed to get its attention, whereupon its appearance transformed into something more appropriate to the native manitou, complete with miniature antlers. He realised he was seeing the place spirit for the building. It was largely uninterested in helping him, but he managed to persuade it to show him the last night the room was occupied.

Before long he was seeing Lambert Connolly enter the room with a woman and lead her to the bathtub. She did everything he asked without protest and did not react to anything else. As she sat in the tub, Connolly gestured and removed her skin; Hawkeye shifted his gaze and realised that Connolly was now, in every respect, the woman who had been in the tub. Shaken, both at what he’d seen and at the confirmation of his worst fears, he stumbled out into the corridor and related it to Hampden. Hampden was confused: the corpse was that of a man!

They returned to the saloon where they talked to Dupre, who confirmed that the body had been male. Hawkeye was adamant, so the three of them went to the makeshift morgue holding the corpse. Sure enough, the body was female, although all present were adamant that they had seen a male body; Hawkeye ventured the opinion that it may have been some kind of magical ritual which obscured the body’s true form as a means of covering the murderer’s tracks. Unfortunately, he had no memory of what the woman looked like, a common side effect of this kind of magic.

Given this new evidence, the suspect pool had now changed and they were right back to square one. Hampden briefly considered the possibility it might be Miss Hayes, but they quickly rejected this idea. Hawkeye proposed that they undertake a vision quest: a group excursion into a closed off portion of the spirit world to try and divine the current identity of the murderer. The quest would most likely take the form of a series of challenges that must be overcome before they could get their information. After some discussion, all but Law agreed to take part, the pastor refusing for religious reasons.

With Hawkeye’s preparations for the ritual likely to take a couple of days, the others had the time they needed to investigate Broken Axle. They arrived in the broad rocky valley late in the afternoon. There was still some light, so they decided to carry out some preliminary investigations before settling in for the night. They visited two mineshafts, finding them boarded up for the winter, then a third, which was still open. Moving closer, they noticed a low-lying cabin which might have housed the miners. The door was locked, but there was no response to their knocking so they broke it open. The scene inside was not pleasant: there were a number of corpses, all subject to the advanced stages of the disease. Sealing the building up again, they made their way to a sheltered cliff and set up camp, setting watches since they were out of the “civilised” area around the town.

Garrett was on watch when he felt an arrow hit his shoulder. Turning around, he became aware of a figure on the edge of the firelight. He raised his rifle, fired and missed, but the report woke the rest of the group, who scrambled out of their tents ready to fight. The battle was brief, with the attacker being put down by a hail of gunfire, although Dupre was injured. Once the peace had returned, it was clear that the attacker was the animated corpse of an Indian, covered in the same kind of sores connected to the disease. The following morning, they burned the corpse and inspected the other mines. Some of them were sealed properly, one other was also host to infected corpses. They burnt the two plague sites and headed back to Deadwood.

By the time they arrived, Dupre was showing signs of the infection, but Garrett, acting on a hunch, laid his hands on her and the symptoms disappeared almost immediately, although the Harrowed began to feel weaker. After some observation, it appeared that Dupre was cured, although Garrett was showing most of the signs of infection. He retired into a self-imposed quarantine.

Back in the Saloon, Hawkeye voiced the opinion that the corpse, having died of the disease, had been possessed by a spirit with the intention of spreading it back to the local white population.

The next day, Hawkeye led them out to Injun Point, where he began to lay out the elements of his ritual, while explaining that the bird pendants he had given them a few months ago were a vital part of the whole operation (although he wouldn’t explain how). The Hermit turned up almost immediately to find out what was going on; they explained their plans to him and he agreed to keep watch while their quest took place. Eventually Hawkeye was ready and the ritual began, involving chanting, dancing, pungent smokes and all the usual symbolic paraphernalia. One by one, the group nodded off…

…they awakened on the flat top of what appeared to be a high mesa in a network of such mesas, separated by deep canyons. Venturing to the edge, they confirmed that there was a drop of over a thousand feet to the river below them. As they looked around they were struck by the richness of the colours and the feeling of life in the landscape around them; a shadow covered them for several seconds and they looked up to see a huge bird passing overhead, its tail and wings trailing lightning.

As they considered how to descend the cliff, they caught a glimpse of movement nearby as a large snake reacted to their presence. Twisting in a complex spiral, it launched itself into the air and began to generate a powerful twister, moving at speed around the edge of the mesa. It began to look like getting down would not be easy, but the shaman explained that this is where the bird totems would be useful: if they were to throw themselves off the cliff, the totems would ensure they could fly. Taking him at his word, they did as he asked and dived past the twisting snake, the totems transforming them into birds. Hawkeye now led them down the canyon, until they tired and came to earth near a wide spot in the river below.

After a brief rest, they progressed on foot, reaching a narrow passage between large shoulders of rock, watched over by a soldier in a Confederate army uniform. Through the passage, a large military encampment could be seen, flying a number of solid black banners; there was no way they could fight their way through, but sneaking past required bypassing the sentry. Hampden volunteered to take the sentry down, making use of new spell he’d learnt, which enabled him to become invisible. As he closed with his target, he realised that the sentry was undead, which made it easier for him to destroy it without warning. The group went through the passage and sneaked around the edge of the encampment, successfully avoiding patrols as they went.

Moving further down the river bank, they rounded a corner and came upon a huge humanoid figure, dripping with blood.

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Fire and ice

Despite their dire suspicions, the posse was unable to find either the living Maddie Hayes or her flayed body. She was either concealed somewhere in the snow or otherwise hidden. Given the ongoing threat, Hawkeye disappeared to try and find out more about skin-walkers and their capabilities.

Several weeks passed, the snow got deeper, and the town celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year with its usual combination of solemn piety and riotous partying. As February passed, the expected partial thaw did not materialise, leaving deep drifts across the valley containing the railroad and keeping the town cut off from the outside world. By mid-March, food was beginning to run short and rationing was being introduced.

The town council summoned the heroes to a meeting to discuss the situation. It turned out that one of the more notorious residents in town, Hanson W Throckmorton III, an explorer of the “New Science”, had invented what he called the “Throckmorton Crystallised Precipitation Division Device”, designed to be attached to the front of a locomotive. It was proposed that this be done and that the locomotive should be used to drive through to Shanghai Junction, a small community situated where the Deadwood branch line connected to the main Iron Dragon railroad. There the passengers would be able to access emergency food stores and order a relief delivery from Bismarck.

The heroes found themselves volunteered to accompany him, despite their misgivings about both his invention and the mission.

They were scheduled to leave the following morning. Arriving at the platform, the group found the locomotive being blessed by a Buddhist priest, its owners standing nearby looking a little worried. The TCPDD turned out to be a huge structure on wheels, attached to the front of the locomotive. It was steam-powered, with its own boiler and supply of ghost rock and was fronted by two huge fan blades.

As their horses and equipment were loaded onto the train, the TCPDD was started up successfully, although it made a horrible racket. They left town promptly, the blades slicing into the snow and hurling it back in two streams to the rear of the train (and showering many of the spectators). The device did its job well and they made good time to Lead, a small mining community towards the edge of the Black Hills, leaving cleared tracks behind them.

Lead turned out to be extremely quiet, although they were expecting some kind of welcome considering the noise they were making. As the plough needed adjusting after its first day’s use, the posse took the opportunity to investigate.

The town seemed extremely empty, so they headed for the sheriff’s office. The office was empty, the door ajar and the stove had burnt out. There were signs of a fight and the door to the holding cell had been bent and partially ripped off its hinges, from the outside. It was obviously done by something very strong. With a growing sense of unease, they moved on to other buildings, finding much the same story in each one.

Moving onto the church, they found evidence that all the fighting had centred there. Venturing into the porch, they found themselves stumbling on a thick layer of what appeared to be human bones. Folden ventured further inside and became aware of movement. Attacked by four fast-moving walkin’ dead with huge mouths, they found themselves in a desperate firefight. Early success, as Dupre blew the head off one, turned out to be an illusion, as the creature began moving again, but then they tried shooting them in the stomach instead. This tactic proved extremely successful and they made short work of the remaining creatures before moving further into the building.

Now Law became aware that something very big was approaching the building at speed. They retreated inside, taking up positions around the pulpit and altar. The creature burst in through the doors, turning out to be an 8 foot humanoid with a huge mouth and sharp teeth (actually a wendigo, although a little far from the usual hunting grounds). The group opened fire and it surprised them with its speed and agility, leaping into the pulpit and slinging Dupre across the room. It turned out to be very difficult to kill, but eventually they brought it down in a hail of blessed gunfire. As it died, it reverted to its human form, that of a brawny miner.

As the creature had eaten the entire town, they decided to torch the church as a pyre and memorial, before checking the rest of the town for more walkin’ dead or wendigos. They found none and returned to the train.

Leaving early the next day, the train broke out on to the plains around midmorning. Without the hills to break the wind, the snow was much lighter and the going much easier. Folden took to riding in the lookout cupola in the caboose, in case of attack by Indians, but things looked peaceful…

… until the firebox on the TCPDD exploded with a loud report, followed by the almighty bang of the boiler exploding.

Shrapnel flew everywhere and Throckmorton himself, who had been tending it, was thrown twenty yards into the snow. Folden went to help him, then the firebox and boiler on the locomotive itself exploded. Law was now trying to save the engineer.

It was obvious that they wouldn’t be going any further by train, so they opted for horseback. The journey was complicated by the snow and a pair of Sioux warbands which followed them the whole way, their members constantly firing arrows over their heads and making lightning fast raids across the line behind them. The braves stuck scrupulously to the letter of the Treaty though, making no actual aggressive move towards the posse.

Eventually, they made to the Junction, where they were able to organise a crew to clear up the wreck and a fully-loaded train back to Deadwood, returning as heroes…

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Revival!

Hawkeye spent the long winter walking (and flying) around the Black Hills, talking to Indian shamans and trying to find out more about the evil locked under the region. He did not have much luck for most of the season, primarily due to anti-Cheyenne hostility from more traditional practitioners and a lack of knowledge amongst the younger, but eventually he found an aged Blackfoot shaman who was willing to talk. It appeared an evil greater spirit was imprisoned under the hills many centuries ago, before the current crisis began. It had been the centre of a cult that practised human sacrifice, but the cult was stamped out and the spirit imprisoned by an alliance of all the plains tribes.

Hawkeye returned to Deadwood to convey his information, but was distracted by a column of smoke. Investigating, he found it was rising from a burning church in the community of Lead. He investigated, finding the town deserted and then saw an explosion on the plains. He decided not to investigate this as he felt more vulnerable out there.

He headed on to Deadwood and, finding that the rest of the posse were not present, decided to make himself scarce until they reappeared a couple of days later.

Once the initial celebrations over their return with food was over, Hawkeye approached them at the Saloon and explained his discovery. He took in the latest news in turn and began trying to figure out how to locate the naagloshi now that it had presumably moved on.

The group also ran into Eddie Garrett, who told them he was sticking around after all, having just bought a stake in a local mining operation. He’d become partners with Robineau and Swearengen who were reopening the Robineau mine. Their previously-announced partner had disappeared.

Meanwhile, the town council organised an expedition to go and clean-up Lead and search for survivors. As the initial discoverers of the tragedy, the heroes volunteered to go along. The expedition found no survivors, although they did battle a pack of starving wolves.

A few days later, food convoys began to arrive in Deadwood. On the Saturday, the latest train appeared to be bringing in a load of food, missionaries and a revival tent. It appeared that the Reverend Ezekiah Grimme of the City of Lost Angels was trying to expand his influence.

Brother Law made his presence known as soon as they started setting up. The head of the mission recognised him, but didn’t seem too hostile despite the resident pastor’s aggressive attitude. Law decided to attend the meeting that evening to see what was going on.

The meeting was a fairly standard revival meeting and was well attended: It was obvious to the newcomers that the town had abandoned the Lord – so they must repent! Law stood up after the sermon and launched his own tirade on the false government of Grimme. While he got some attention, he loses it as the missionaries revealed a feast laid on at Grimme’s expense.

Meanwhile, Chang had finally challenged Folden to a fight, although the latter was unclear as to why. They went up to Injun Point alone, where Folden, despite getting in the first attack, was unable to take advantage. Chang nearly killed him with his retaliation. Folden was preparing to strike again, aware that Chang was playing for keeps and that he probably wouldn’t survive, when a gunshot interrupted the duel. It was the Hermit and he was not happy about them ruining the local ambience. Chang launched himself into a series of flying leaps and Folden heaved a sigh of relief – the fight had been postponed.

Law decided to spend the night in the church in case of trouble. He awakened in the small hours to find the front door open. There was nobody in the building, but there was a small pile of melting snow on the doormat. Checking the church out thoroughly, he found nothing amiss. The following morning, he gathered the others for a more thorough daylight search and this time they found a small disc of wood stuck to the bottom of the cross. While it could have been part of the structure, it didn’t look necessary. Detaching it, so they could experiment, they realised that it was made of redwood (not easy to get in the Black Hills) and seemed to be carrying a magical enchantment.

Later that morning, one of the missionaries was in the congregation at the church and attempted to harangue Law during the sermon. When he was remarkably unsuccessful in this he looked puzzled and left.

Law took this as evidence of no-good and began planning a massive retaliation revelation at the next revival meeting…

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Nightmares: An Untold Tale

Due to two players being unable to make it, this session covered a previously unseen event from earlier in the campaign.

In the run-up to Christmas, Hampden was having bad dreams. He would find himself at a high-desk in an office, studying books of magic. He knew he was expected to do something, but he had no idea what, or where to begin. He continually woke up frustrated and stressed and the pattern would repeat itself the next night.

The exact situation became clearer when he was taken from his studies to a room deep underground that he recognised from his childhood. He was revisiting his education in the sorcerous arts – the very background he had left New York to escape. The underground room contained hooded figures and a trapped sacrificial victim, although he woke up before anything happened. On subsequent nights, he began trying to twist the dream into his control, changing small elements such as altering the spell he’s working on. Eventually, he succeeded in creating an illusion of himself studying so that he could slip away from his desk.

By this point, Folden was also having nightmares, specifically based around memories of sparring with Chang in the gym from his teenage years. Needless to say, he was only just holding his own. At the end of their bout, Folden went in search of their master and finding him lying dead in his quarters. At this point, Chang walked in and, seeing him standing over the corpse, assumed the worst and attacked.

Hawkeye was meditating with one of the more friendly Sioux elders, learning about walking the spirit world. On one trip they were exploring the huge tree that allows transit through those realms when he became aware of an increasing number of evil spirits passing. Eventually, they arrived at a realm resembling the Great Plains, near a small circle of tipis.

Hawkeye felt something was wrong and went to investigate, finding a demonic-looking figure next to the fire at the centre of the circle. He could hear voices and cries from inside the tents, and caught glimpses of a dark office and a large room covered in straw mats. At this point, the demon noticed him so he returned to his colleague for help. The colleague did not react and, when Hawkeye attempted to talk to him, was rapidly dessicating into a pile of dust.

As the demon laughed at him, he realised he had been drawn into his own nightmare.

He could hear Hampden in one of the tipis, and realised that he seemed to be trying to escape something. Hawkeye reached into the tent and pulled him out. By this point, the demon was beginning to react, so Hawkeye began to try and distract it, while Hampden retrieved Folden in the same way. The shaman realised that the fire might be significant and attempted to put it out, causing a powerful explosion.

At that point, everyone woke up, except Hawkeye, who found his colleague waiting for him. As they left the spirit world, Hawkeye found himself in a valley near Deadwood.

A few days later, Folden was approached by Chang for help with a problem in Chinatown. He had been trying to track down a number of Chinese residents who had gone missing, all considered good workers. He had finally found them, but they were being held captive by a poweful creature, and he needed help to free them. Folden, Hampden and the newly-arrived Hawkeye agreed to help, so they arranged to meet the next day following Chang’s planned reconnaissance.

The four of them met on the edge of Chinatown early the next day, and Chang led them to an apparently empty warehouse at the end of the main street. As they walked, he informed them that the kidnapper was a Chinese ogre, big and strong, but not too bright. There was a possibility it may have some kind of sorcerous ability. He wanted them to tackle the ogre, while he freed the slaves.

Venturing to the door, they looked in. The ogre was pretty obvious, white-skinned, with colourful markings, and about 9 feet tall. It was also easy to identify its followers, a selection of labourers, apparently in some kind of trance; the prisoners were in a cage at the far side of the room.

Hawkeye began by teleporting into the shadows in a nearby corner of the room. Hampden, meanwhile, opened fire from the doorway, covering Chang and Folden as they charged in. The defenders rallied quickly, and Folden rapidly became bogged-down in a fistfight at the doorway, although Chang was able to leap clear and head towards his objective. Unfortunately, he too was surrounded and caught up in a slugging match. Hawkeye was successful in his attempt to surprise the followers from the corner, but was unable to take advantage.

The ogre reacted by heading straight for the door melee and attacking Folden, whereupon a war of attrition began. Ultimately, the ogre went down and the followers awoke from their trances, surrendering immediately. Chang, who had been tied up for the entire fight, was finally able to release the prisoners, thanking the heroes for their help.

Following this event, Hawkeye returned to the snow-covered hills to resume his studies.

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