Deadlands 2012

Session 1
In the beginning...

December 1875
At the start of the adventure, Kissin’ Kate O’Neil was on her way to California when she stumbled upon a wagon in distress. Another young fellow named Doc Brown happened upon the wagon as well and they successfully routed the bandits, saving the life of one Irving Backlund. A injun was there too, and he slit many throats.

Irving offered them $100 to see him safely back to Denver with the loss of his guards. After some shrewd bargaining he agreed to pay them $135 each. The injun was little help and tried to steal one of Kate’s pistols.

On the way, Irving confided to Doc that his only son, Christopher, was possibly being held under the sway of a cult in the small town of Derry’s Ford. The cult, known as the Church of the Holy Flame, had caused Christopher to run off in the night and abandon his father. Irving offered $500 to bring Christopher back or $250 to bring solid evidence that Christopher is there of his own free will.

While on the way to Denver, the posse had run in with the vicious Black Creek Indians. Kissin’ Kate gunned down their war chief while Doc Brown held his own against the barbarian horde. The injun again was little help, sniping from a concealed position in a most cowardly fashion.

December 18, 1875
Once they arrived safely in Denver they were paid promptly while Mr. Backlund went to attend to his mining business. Doc and Kate took in the sights of Denver while the injun promptly went to buy firewater and start a fight. The injun got drunk and was tossed into the jail to sleep it off. When he awoke and paid his fine, he was released but taunted and teased by the jailers. He flew into a rage and nearly killed two of them with his bare hands before he was gunned down by the third. The event shocked the town and set back White/American Indian relations in the region at least 50 years. Good Job.

December 19, 1875
Doc and Kate decided to see about Christopher and set off for Derry’s Ford. Once there, they met a bright young reporter called Errie Lockhart. Errie told them wild rumors about the Church of the Holy Flame and offered to compensate them if they would help in his investigation. They tried talking to the drunken priest, but he was little help. Seems he took to drink once the Church showed up near town, and hasn’t crawled out of the bottle since.

Dec 23, 1875
They reprovisioned and headed to the compound an hour after dusk. While sneaking over the fence to get a closer look, they were noticed by a guard and beset upon. The gunfire rose the congregation who surrounded them and tied them up.

Who knows what awful terror awaits our heroes? Tune in next week for more TALES OF INTEREST!

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Session 2
Scary Christmas

December 23, 1875

When we last left our heroes, they were cornered at the compound of the Church of the Holy Flame. Kate, Errie, and Doc were tied up and bagged. After being tossed into what smelled like a horse stable, Kate was able to eventually wriggle free of her bonds. As she worked to cut her friends loose, the members of the church led by the nefarious gunslinger Edgar DuChamp returned to the barn with the town sheriff and his deputies. Kate tried her best to get free, but was overwhelmed and the trespassers were turned over to the law and transported back to Derry’s Ford to spend the night in the hoosegow.

Once in the cells, the sheriff and his deputies weren’t overly amused by the posse’s banter and shut them up with gags. After a few hours of the lawmen playin’ cards , the deputies went home while the sheriff took a nightcap and kicked his feet up on his desk with his scatter gun close by. The posse drifted off to sleep, still manacled, but a welcome change from the numbing ropes of the Church of the Holy Flame.

Suddenly each awoke in a cold sweat to the sound of creaking footsteps. The sheriff snored lazily as three dark shapes slid into the room. Before they could even cry out, a shotgun blast ripped into the sheriff. As their hearts exploded in their chests, they each readied themselves for what was surely death.

Somehow, a strange shared nightmare had fallen upon them and they woke in their cells. Sweat soaked their clothing and their hearts pounded, but everything was as it been when the deputies left. The lantern burned low and steadily on the desk. The sheriff stirred only slightly and resumed the rhythmic snoring that had been going for hours. Kate rolled over and tossed off the nightmare. She’d been through worse than a bad dream. Still spooked, Errie and Doc decided to trade watches for the rest of the night. Doc turned in while Errie stayed up.

Errie paced in his cell for a few minutes, but the cot started to look inviting. He took a seat and leaned back, he could keep awake for a few more hours and just count the bars. Sooner than he expected though he was sawin’ logs with the rest of the posse.

Errie snapped awake when he heard them though. This time it was no dream. Dark shapes moved outside past the windows. The door creaked open and in they came. Errie pleaded with them to turn away. The men’s faces were full of fear as one picked up the scattergun off the desk with a trembling hand. As he set the scattergun down and reached for the sheriff’s pistola, Sheriff Turner snapped awake and drew it in a flash.

The men jumped as the sheriff rose slowly from his seat, anger in his voice and calm resolve on his face. “Back down” he said. The men backed up slowly staring down the barrel of the sheriff’s six shooter. They were shaking like leaves as they backed up, but suddenly one flinched and a shotgun blast tore into the sheriff’s chest! Errie cried out in surprise. The sheriff reeled and fell to the floor. The three would-be assassins froze. Confusion and bewilderment on their faces they looked at each other in terror. Their expressions said it all. “What had they done?” The sheriff tossed his six shooter to Errie and slid the scattergun to Kate.

Errie opened fire on the assassins as Kate stretched to reach the scattergun. Doc stayed low as the gunmen tried to finish off the sheriff and put the posse in a early grave. Kate blasted her cell doors with the scattergun and dove for cover next to the sheriff. Errie passed the gun to Doc as the assassins bullets bounced off the bars sending sparks flying. The sheriff retrieved a back up pistol and laid down some cover fire right as Doc put some lead between the eyes of one of the gunmen.

Her hands still bound, Kate searched for shells for the scattergun while Sheriff Turner kept the two remaining gunmen pinned down. The sheriff tossed Kate a box of shells and with a quick top off she put down the second gunmen with a double tap to the gut. The third assassin’s courage quickly fled with the death his two compadres, and he ran into the night. Fleeing the jailhouse as fast as his legs could carry him, a runnin’ gunbattle ensued in the streets of Derry’s Ford as the posse chased after him. Doc was barely able to keep the sheriff alive as Errie and Kate gave chase.

The posse finally brought him down outside the town, but as they dragged him back, the deputies arrived and surrounded the posse. Their hand forced, the posse surrendered and faced trial for escape and the attempted murder of the sheriff. Though they contested the charges, they were brought before the judge the following morning. The case was strong as there was significant evidence that the three gunmen had attempted to break out the posse and together had murdered the sheriff, who had died in the night of his wounds.

December 24, 1875
The next morning the deputies presented the case and since no one in the town knew the assassins, it was a fair assumption that they had come to rescue the posse. The surviving third member of the gunmen stood silent, not even entering a plea along with the posse. The posse’s defense rested solely on the town sawbones testifying that the aid given to the sheriff in his last hours was given by someone on the jailhouse, whether it was one of the posse or one of the gunmen. That perplexing fact was rebutted by the deputies saying that even though the sheriff had been patched up, he had first been blasted and the posse had been freed. Maybe he came around and begged for help and the posse took pity on him, but it still didn’t explain the “jail break” or the sudden appearance of the posse only days before.

Their prior charges of trespassing and assault at the Church of the Holy Flame’s compound tainted their good intentions and they stood before the judge for sentencing. As the judge passed the guilty verdict and sentenced them to hang at dusk, a voice spoke up. The drunken priest spoke out that he had information vital to the case. An uproar ensued in the church as the priest approached the pulpit. After speaking privately with the priest, the judge remanded the sentence in light of new evidence and released the posse from all charges with instruction to release them outside the town.

Suspicious but grateful to have their necks unstretched, they headed back to the compound to investigate. Finding it empty and a fresh trail leading into the mountains, they looked clues as to where the congregation might’ve gone. Doc found a lock on the basement door outside the main house and blew it off with his six gun. Kate and Errie came runnin’ to the sound and they delved into the basement.

Once inside, they found three altars with the dissected remains of three feral dogs. As Errie took photos for his article and Doc looked around for clues, an ear twitched. The bones rattled and shook as the undead canines rose and attacked. Errie dropped his camera and ran from the basement as the hounds tore at his flesh. Doc stood white as a sheet as the beasts charged and sunk deep into his flesh. Kate calmly drew her dual six guns and blasted the dogs back to the hell they came from, she’d seen worse in the world than a few mangy undead curs. Once outside, Errie and Doc caught their breath and wondered aloud as to what could’ve spawned those creatures.

As they did so, the drunken priest, Father Owlsley rode up. After some calm and surprisingly sober words from him, they came to know the terrible tale of the true origin of the Church of the Holy Flame. Fifty years ago, the leader of the congregation was known as Emily Wright, not Cynthia Carstairs as she is now. She led her flock to the wilderness, Father Owlsley’s brother included. He watched in horror as the congregation turned on each other slaughtering themselves in a macabre display while Emily Wright cackle around them. Father Owlsley crawled into a bottle and tried to forget the horror he’d seen.

Eventually he’d turned to the faith and had spent the past forty years shepherding the resident’s of Derry’s Ford. When Cynthia Carstairs and the Church of the Holy Flame appeared outside the city two years ago, he couldn’t escape the horror of his memories and he crawled back into the bottle. Now he said he was determined to not let the same thing happen again. He planned to follow the trail to where he was sure the ritual would happen again and this time he was going to stop it.

The posse agreed to stop the menace and set off with old priest. After trackin’ the wagon train til long past nightfall, they stopped and made camp. Three of the Holy Flame members attacked them in the night, but they were able to send them to hell with prejudice. Father Owlsley healed them with his faith and let them know that their mission had divine purpose. Bolstered, the posse moved onward with renewed vigor.

December 25, 1875
As they approached the site of the ritual, the sky churned with ominous clouds. Lightning burst from the sky causing an avalanche to bar their way, but they were undeterred and approached the ritual on foot.

Up against the rock face, the entire congregation swayed and danced in one frightful display. Each one, from small child to old man, held a bladed weapon. The dance turned savage as they suddenly turned on one another! The barbaric display only excited the sorceress and her grim body guard, Edgar DuChamp, as they stood above on a natural outcropping. As the posse crept into position, suddenly Father Owlsley ran towards the fray screaming that he wouldn’t let it happen again. As he fought through the crowd, the sorceress hurled spells and the veteran gunfighter started slingin’ lead at the posse.

Their resolve only bolstered by the urgency of the situation, Kate charged the altar with Father Owlsley as Errie and Doc tried to pick off the vile enchantress. Church members killed each other in bloody carnage as the bullets flew over them. As Kate charged up the altar, DuChamp met her at the top. They turned their weapons on each other, but DuChamp got the best of her and fanned shot after shot into her chest as she fell.

Father Owlsley charged after him as he retreated, but the old priest proved too slow for the younger man. DuChamp emptied his pistol into the priest, emotionless. The priest tumbled from the altar and lay sprawled mere feet from the sickening carnage now at a fever pitch around the bonfire.

The sorceress hammered Doc with gouts of flame from her hands as he attempted to get a clean shot on her. He finally succumbed to the blasts after she sent them again and again.

DuChamp and Errie traded shots as the ritual completed with the death of the last member. The fire consumed the corpses as it grew into a massive conflagration. Errie fled when he saw the impossible. Though she was shot in the head and chest several times, with the completion of the ritual she was miraculously healed and turned her fierce gaze towards him. Fearing for his life and knowing he could do no more good alone, Errie fled. He didn’t stop to look back.

Doc awoke hours later. The embers still smoldered against the rock face, but it wasn’t just the mound of red hot bones that made the landscape appear fierce. The cacti twisted into the shapes of gnarled hands, the rocks became ghastly skulls, the shadows danced on the walls, and swirling black clouds brought black lightning shrieking down onto the scorched earth. As he surveyed the scene, he came upon the bodies of Kate and the priest. Hurriedly he gathered her up and fled.

As he approached Derry’s Ford, the light illuminated the morning sky. The town was ablaze and from afar the shapes burning figures could be seen walking the streets. Doc and Errie had the same idea to head back to Denver and met along the trail. An old friend met up with them and shared the ride as they headed back to the big city to face Irving Backlund.

Kate was buried along the trail and they parted ways with their friend as they rode hard for Denver. Back in the city, Mr. Backlund was furious with the news and warned Doc to never return.

With Kate gone and the town of Derry’s Ford seemingly wiped out, where will the posse turn?

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Session 3
Back into the fire

December 28, 1875
With Errie and Doc heading back into Denver, they took some time to recover their strength and do a little research on this DuChamp fella before heading back out to try and get some revenge. Doc toye-d with the idea of arming himself with six six-guns, but after it looked awfully heavy and not at all stylish, he decided a few more long guns suited him better. Errie turned in his story to the local Epitaph office and earned a nice bonus for his photos. They each rented rooms for a few days to ease their sore muscles and give the graze on Errie’s noggin’ some time to knit.

With their next few days looking lonely, Doc turned to a card table and met an interesting gentleman named Rutherford Ellington Dillinger. Dillinger was a traveling dandy from England and was looking for some adventure. Doc offered to travel with him for a while if he was interested. Dillinger resolutely accepted and then retired for the evening. With that settled, Doc headed to the bar for a stiff drink to help ease the loss of his money to Dillinger in their card game.

As Doc lifted the shot, he suddenly smelled something foul. It was as if death was near. He turned and went white as a sheet as Kissin’ Kate sat next to him. Kate calmed the Doc down and had them go up to his room so they could speak privately. Kate told him that she was very glad he wasn’t a professional grave digger and was more than a little upset that he’d buried her alive after claiming to be such a good doctor and all. Doc took a few to let it all settle while she went to fetch Errie.

Errie was lounging in his room at Grandma Turner’s boarding house when Kate knocked on the door. Errie called out “Who’s there?” “A friend” Kate replied. Errie shuffled to the door saying he only had one friend and she wasn’t a woman. As soon as he opened the door, he lost his sense of humor for a moment as he stood incredulous at Kate’s return. Kate filled him in on where the Doc was and they met back up with him in his room.

Once they got back together, they arranged to set out at first light to track down DuChamp and the witch he traveled with, the nefarious Lady Carstairs. Dillinger attempted to persuade them to come with him near the breakfast chuck wagon, but was dissuaded by his Sikh bodyguard Singh. While Singh was convincing the long winded Dillinger, the posse scooted out of town. Errie attempted to talk Singh out of it, but before he knew it, the man had whispered a few strong words and Errie found himself riding the trail with no memory of the last few hours.

As they approached Derry’s Ford at dusk on the third day, they saw the burned out husk of the old town in the distance. Making camp up the river, they were almost asleep on their bedrolls when Errie jumped up saying he swore he’d heard something in the woods crunching through the snow. The posse roused and looked around for a bit, but found nothing.

After a while, Doc went to go lie down again, but then he saw something, no someone coming up from the river. He jumped up and grabbed his shotgun and the rest followed. Doc, Errie and Kate approached the shapes of what seemed to be shivering men coming up out of the river. Errie challenged them at ten paces, but they only stood shivering in the cold. One of them mumbled something. Silhouetted by the moon behind them, they appeared as only shapes in the dark.

Suddenly from behind, Errie’s mule shrieked! They whirled to see a dark shape ripping into the tough flesh beneath the nag’s neck. As the posse turned back to the shapes that had come from the river, they charged! They could see full well as they came closer the men were bloated and decayed zombies! One ripped into Errie with savage ferocity as he stood paralyzed with fear. Doc tried to fend his off with his scattergun, but suffered a wicked wound in exchange for a moment’s hesitation. Kate drew her Peacemaker and started blastin’ but the fiends wouldn’t yield.

Cursing she ran to the fire and grabbed a burning log to shed some light on the foul creatures. The mule lay in a pool of blood, being devoured by the slick black shape that couldn’t be a man. As she ran back towards Doc and Errie, she saw Doc starting to retreat and Errie lying sprawled on the ground. She blasted the creature assaulting Errie as one of the other’s jumped on her back and ripped into her neck with crushing jaws. As the now lifeless creature rolled off of Errie, Kate turned her attention to the monkey on her back.

Doc retreated for his six guns in his saddle but was overrun by one of the defiled corpses. Kate moved towards the thing and blasted it square in the temple. After a split second of relief, she turned. Doc and Errie were down but the creature that had feasted on the mule had grown to huge size! Nearly twice as tall as a man, it’s contorted pot belly full of meat and blood and bone had grown distended and vile. It charged! Kate back pedaled away while shootin’ straight for his noggin’. Two direct hits later it kept coming!

Suddenly it was upon her; grabbing her waist with it’s huge bony fingers. It crushed with all of it’s strength, cracking her ribs and hips. She decked it across the face with the butt of her Colt and slid free as it reeled. She rolled away and snatched up one of Doc’s pistols and turned it on the inhuman monster. As she fired again and again, striking it over and over square in the face, it lurched and fell mere feet away from her.

Doc and Errie started to come around and were hurting badly from their wounds. Doc tended them as best he could while the bodies of the now again dead creatures were piled and burned. They moved camp for the night and retreated away from the town.

When morning came it was bittersweet. The sunlight drove away the darkness, but revealed the ruin that was once the quiet hamlet of Derry’s Ford. Fire had taken the entire town it seemed. Most buildings lay in a smoldering ruin and only a few had survived even partially intact. After finding only corpses among most of the buildings, they had a stroke of luck. They found the bank vault completely unscathed. Only a few careful applications of dynamite later and the money inside was freed! Union bills poured out, mostly unscathed from the blast, and the posse got a little hard earned cash for their peril.

As they searched the town for clues, they found a melted locket amidst several skeletons in the ruins of the church. When it was pried open, interestingly enough it contained a folded picture of the witch: Cynthia Carstairs, leader of the Church of the Holy Flame. They entered into the the mayor’s house and found the most grim display of all. Strung up from his own chandelier, the mayor hung by his wrists, flayed and burned. As Errie moved to cut him down, he twitched and groaned in agony. The posse moved quickly and the Doc tended his wounds as he screamed in pain. Soon he’d drifted off to sleep, doped up with the Doc’s medicine.

After trying to find a suitable spot to hold up for the rest of the day, it occurred to them that they hadn’t checked the compound to the south. Carefully taking the mayor with them, they found the compound deserted but the doors curiously locked. After deftly picking the lock to the church, Doc moved the mayor into the store room of the chapel.

Upon searching the church, they found several crates full of an odd assortment of items. That’s when Errie spotted the riders coming down the road. The posse moved quickly and pulled their horses inside and got ready for whoever was coming. As they got into position they heard the voices of several men coming up the steps. The doors flew open and Errie challenged them to halt, pistol in hand. The desperados cleared leather instantly, but the ensuing gunfight found three of the four of the hombres laid out on the church steps without firing a shot. The fourth took a grievous wound to the leg and hoofed it to greener pastures. DuChamp’s familiar visage squeezed off a deadly shot at Doc, catching him in the noggin’ before running for his own horse.

The chase was on! The posse rode after DuChamp as he rode hard for Derry’s Ford. As the posse caught up, DuChamp suddenly dismounted and pulled down his horse for cover in the middle of the path. Doc did the same as Errie rode to catch up and Kate fired from her horse. DuChamp took another shot at Doc and nearly split his noggin’ again! A second close graze for sure, Doc returned a shot of his own, but barely missed DuChamp. Errie suddenly shouted for them to charge and rode headlong at DuChamp!

As Errie bore down on the grizzled gunslinger, his horse turned, launching the inexperienced rider headlong onto the ground; or what would be the ground if DuChamp and his horse weren’t there. Errie landed on the horse and DuChamp grimly turned his Buntline on the cub reporter. He fired with deadly accuracy and Errie went down. Kate rode in at once to draw DuChamp’s attention away and succeeded momentarily. DuChamp saw the situation for what it was, he was trapped between Kate and Doc. DuChamp sprang and jumped onto Errie’s horse.

Doc and Kate moved to pursue, but Kate decided to end it while DuChamp was still in her sights. From over 45 paces, she deftly put a bullet in the back of his head with her Peacemaker. DuChamp fell, never to rise again. Doc and Kate rounded up the horses and brought Errie and DuChamp back to the compound.

As Kate and Doc looked over the banditos and checked their pockets, a strange figure came out of the wilderness. A grizzled mountain man named Monty approached Doc and after a few tense moments a common peace was made. Monty had come to trade furs in the town in mid season and was planning to head back into the wilderness, but finding the town a ruin had investigated the gunfire coming from the compound to the south.

Where will Doc and Kate turn? Will Monty join them? Will Lady Carstairs be found? What was DuChamp doing back at the compound?

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Session 4
The Trail Leads South!

January 1, 1876
As Kate went through the effects of the cowpokes slain on the church steps, Doc and Monty talked to with the last unfortunate soul who had survived. Monty and Doc grilled him over his dealings with DuChamp, he broke like a cheap mexican pitcher. He spilled the beans about how he and a few of his friends led by their friend Jim (God rest his soul, laying on the church steps dead-as-a-doornail), had met up with DuChamp only three days ago in Colorado Springs. DuChamp had needed help guarding a shipment heading south soon, but first he wanted help bringing some items down from a town east of Denver called Derry’s Ford. They’d been on hard times in recent years, what with the buffalo hunting trade near dryin’ up, so they readily accepted DuChamp’s ten dollar advance with no questions.

They’d rode hard for three days and when they came up towards the compound, DuChamp said something was up and sent them ahead to check out the church. That was when they’d come in the door and Doc, Kate and Errie had mowed them down and then raced after DuChamp. He explained he was the lucky one, only getting two shots in his leg and nearly being crippled for it. He’d hoofed it, but collapsed. When it became clear he didn’t know much about DuChamp’s plans short of Derry’s Ford, Kate put a bullet in his head and called it good. With the cowpokes and DuChamp dispatched, they saw to the now deceased mayor of the poor town of Derry’s Ford and gave him a proper burial.

They then rode south towards Colorado Springs cross country, with Monty blazin’ the trail. Monty had them cutting time off their route, but strayed a little too far into Injun territory. The Black Creek tracked them down and set upon them early one morning while Monty slept and Kate and Doc stood watch, getting ready to set out for the day. The coffee hadn’t even been on, when the savages came a whooping and yelling. They popped up out of the high grass and charged. The odds were greater than three to one, but Doc’s and Kate’s six gun’s blazed and several of the warriors fell dead on the first charge. Monty was caught unaware by one of the war chiefs, and beset upon early. Monty managed to come away with only a few scrapes from his exchange with the chief, as Kate put a bullet between his eyes quicker than he could spit. With their chief dead and they’re strongest warriors downed, the war party retreated.

The posse saddled up quick and lit out before the injuns could regroup. With some shrewd doublin’ back led by Monty, they evaded another encounter with the Black Creek and made it to Colorado Springs with no more trouble.

Once in Colorado Springs, Doc spent some of his hard earned cash and sent a wire off to Smith and Robard’s to order a new telescopic sight for his rifle. Monty and Kate called on the clerk at the ticket window looking for the package for DuChamp. With a small bribe of ten dollars, the clerk let on that a ravishing woman had picked up the package and had gone south on the train just yesterday. They inquired about the next train south and bought passage for the next evening.

Doc came back with good news! Turns out Smith and Robards had the model he wanted in stock and would be sending it out overnight by air mail on one of their airships. They’d said to look for it in midday on the north edge of town. Sure as shit, there it came the next day, sailing out of the sky on a bright white cloud of bleached cotton. It hit the ground with a clunk and by midday Doc had it sighted in and could bullseye a vulture easy from a hundred paces.

With some new digs and some fresh supplies, they got ready for the 7:15 to Roswell, New Mexico. Hopefully soon they could catch up with that witch and put her six feet under for good.

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Session 5
Devil Bats Beware!

On the evening of January 6th, 1876, Kate, Doc, and Monty got ready to board their train to Tombstone at 7:45 pm. The train came in right on time, but the conductor gave them some bad news. An override conduction pressure valve had come loose during the trip from Denver to Colorado Springs and they would have to wait on a replacement. It’d be at least a day before they could set out. Dismayed and a little perturbed, the posse grumbled about what to do next. Kate stomped off in search of a good steak and whiskey while Monty and Doc contemplated their next move.

As they stood on the track, a tall man, a little on in years but with a stern visage all the same approached. He introduced himself as Caleb Walters and asked if Doc was a card playing man. Doc and Caleb struck up some small talk and Monty soon chimed in. After a few minutes of easy conversation they decided to pass the time back in the Tattered Dog Saloon over cards. The beer and whiskey flowed and they only played for fun and the time whiled away. Sometime around 10:00 pm a long whistle blast came from the station. Doc, Monty, and Cal wandered out from the saloon and started to mosey towards the station.

As they came upon it, the train they were waiting on started sputtering down the tracks. As they rushed to see why their train was leaving, the station conductor held them back. He said another train was comin’ and they need watch out because it was comin’ in quick! They stood back as the most incredible locomotive rushed into the station, brakes screamin’ and the steam puffin’ away.

The sounds of the locomotive died away and that’s when they saw the carnage. Union boys comin’ off the train limpin’ and being carried off in litters. The armored car looked like someone used it for target practice and the whole train looked like it’d been painted by a blind field hand totin’ red paint. Doc moved in quick to help with triage as Monty grabbed a litter and helped moved men to the doctor’s office/barber shop.

Cal stood back and helped where he could. He brought food and water to those who needed it. He comforted the weary with a calm word and helped the men get their wits back. They looked like they’d been through hell. As Cal was making the rounds, he met with the commanding officer, Lt. Larkin. After a few quizzical minutes with Larkin, Cal was offered the job to replace his field artillery engineer and he accepted. Larking extended the offer of contract work to anyone else able in the town that could assist. The last attack looked like it had cut Larkin’s number of able men in half.

Cal came to Monty and Doc in the barber shop and they agreed to join him, but first they needed to find Kate. After a few minutes of searchin’ Monty found her laid up in bed in their hotel room, an empty bottle of hooch next to her. Monty tried to rouse her, but when he turned her over, she was pale and cold. Monty lost it and ran from the room hollerin’ that Kate was dead! Motny took off for the Doc at once, fighting through the throngs of people.

The commotion erupted at once and people rushed the stairs in curiosity. Cal could barely get in front of them and a youngster scrambled up the steps. As he hobbled up the stairs towards the room, the kid ran into the room and returned to the top shouting “She’s dead, she’s dead!” Cal shoved past him and got into the room, locking the door. With crowd gathered round outside the door, Cal looked Miss Kate over. Cal knew better what was happening but couldn’t let on too much lest he rouse the suspicion of others.

When the barkeep came in and Monty and Doc caught up, they wrapped her in a sheet and brought her to the train quick as they could. Once she was stowed, the train set off with a low whistle just a few minutes til 1 am.

The next few days passed at a snails pace. With the high snows on the tracks they could barely make 25 miles a day after having to stop at least once an hour to clear snow from the tracks. The cold days on the flat car were only punctuated by the sweltering nights in the armored car.

After a few days slow travel, a clear day finally appeared and it warmed, almost into the 50’s. At about noon, they approached a deep chasm known as Hangman’s Gorge. The chasm spanned almost a mile wide and looked as rickety as a 200 year old rocking chair. Lt. Larkin shuddered when he saw the pass and remarked grimly that he hadn’t enjoyed this part of his last journey to Fort Clark and he didn’t think he’d like it this time around.

The train crept onto the rickety tracks with a dull chugging. The lone droning oppressive in the open expanse. A shadow caught Doc’s eye and when he peered up through his scope he saw dark shapes coming down towards them from the mountains. No mere eagles or vultures, these black shapes bore sickening dread as they streaked down from the sky.

They swooped in low, lithe black shapes with bat wings and razor sharp talons. Their eyes were small and beady, ears gnarled and twisted, huge black wings reaching at least ten feet across; the largest one looked to be covered in scales. As the descended they echoed shuddering wails of terror. Monty aimed and took one directly in the chest with his rifle as it swooped, plucking it from the sky and sending it down to the earth.

Kate raised her shotgun and let loose with both barrels felling another quickly. Then they were upon them, raking and thrashing with deadly precision. Their talons rose and fell swiftly as Privates Joe Swanson and John Einrich were tossed to their fate in the chasm below. One of the things clutched Monty in it’s claws and brought him up off the train, but he held on with fierce strength and forced the creature to land on the train again or risk tumbling to the ground below.

Lt. Larkin fought bravely as he wield Colt and cutlass against the foes, protecting the cannon from the assault. The largest one twice attempted to throw him off but he stayed out of it’s clutches. The lead was flying as the beasts attacked with savage ferocity.

Monty put two expert shots on the huge beasts wing as he attacked the Lieutenant, crippling it. Kate put shell after shell into it from her double barrel as it attacked not the Lieutenant, but the cannon! Was there some devilish intelligence to the creature?

Doc was fighting his own winged menace when it clutched him and began to fly. He turned his six guns skyward and put the beast down. He then turned his shots on the hulking bat that stood in the center. The beast would not yield!

Cal had been furiously attempting to reach the safety of the passenger car, but now stood back to back with Kate firing his Peacemaker at the last of the beasts to remain flying. It advanced towards him, heedless of his .45 Colt blasting away. It crouched low, then sprung grabbed his shoulders and carrying him up. Cal dropped his Colt and snared the talon in his garrote, not letting the beast carry him to the chasm depths below.

Kate finally put the big one down just as Cal began to be carried up. With the creature rising with Cal in his clutches, Monty made the bold decision to leap onto the beast saving Cal from certain death! Monty brought his rifle down hard on the creature’s neck fracturing the spine and dropping it lifeless to the floor of the flatcar.

And as fast as they had come out of the sky, they were dead. The huge one lay convulsing on the cannon slumped in a lead riddled heap. The only slightly smaller one lay collapsed at the entry of the passenger car.

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