PHUDGE Deadlands

The Posse in this Volume:

* Dispatches from the Darkness *

Dispatches - Volume One - Volume Two

Volume Two - Something Weird This Way Comes

Chapter 1 - Strangeness on a Train

Published August 12, '08

Oscar and the Kid headed back to Coppertown as the regular train to Coppertown brought some new heroes, along with Conductor Aloysius Tate.

During the train journey a crate on the cargo flatbed created a disturbance before bursting open as a mining automaton went out of control.

After a brief struggle Angry Bear hurled the damaged automaton off the rear of the train where it exploded on the tracks - cutting the railway line and destroying the telegraph line that runs alongside it.

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Chapter 2 - A Gathering of Great Minds

Published August 19, '08

The new arrivals were harassed by mine overseers at the Coppertown train station while the Mexican population hailed El Guapo as the hero come to save them. Mr Donovan's fancy lawyer talk and Oscars presence defused the situation and the Kid started randomly babbling for unknown reasons.

After checking into the Empire Hotel, or lodging with Father O'Leary at the church, the posse gathered in Oscar's room to discuss what was going on in town and decided to go to the meeting mentioned in the Kid's note.

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Chapter 3 - A Clandestine Meeting

Published September 2, '08

The posse headed out to the hills North of the church for the meeting promised in the Kid's note.

Upon arrival the note burst into flames in Donovan's pocket and as the posse began to investigate some strange shadows and eerie lights they were set upon by a pack of Devil Dogs.

A hard fought battle, with little posse teamwork, saw Donovan pass out after the pack leader was defeated and just as a strange mist began to leave the dogs body and stream into Oscar's nostrils...

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Chapter 4 - Mr Donovan's Demise

Published September 9, '08

While Oscar battled the strange mist, Father O'Murphy tried in vain to heal Donovan. He held the vessel open for the return of the soul until he was certain that only 'bad things' were trying to enter it.

The rest of the posse searched the scene for clues while Miss Hastings and Father O'Murphy took Mr Donovan's body to the church. The pair then returned to the Empire Hotel to gather Donovan's belongin's and discovered that their rooms had been tossed. Miss Hastings employed some of her occult huckster skills to have a strong hunch about who had been there and why - thugs sent by the Beasley's to scare them.

Returning to the hillside the posse decided to head to the Arrowhead mine a half mile away where El Guapo spoke to the Mexican miners about how he'd defeated some dogs in the hills.

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Chapter 5 - A Stranger in Town

Published September 23, '08

While the posse enjoyed a well-earned sleep in a Strange figure rode into town and made his way to the Empire Hotel. Upon encountering Oscar in the hall they drew on each other - Oscar winning with his inhuman speed.

Holstering his weapons Oscar proceeded to catch up with his old acquaintance Joe Tolliver - now a bounty hunter - who had come to town following rumours that Black Feetla had headed that way.

Meanwhile a scene was developing at the church as Father O'Leary, the local drunken priest, dragged Mr Donovan's body out of the church and tossed it into a ditch beside the road out of town, all the while drunkenly muttering and cursing about taint o' the devil, and touched by the great serpent. When confronted by the posse he took a tumble into the ditch, with a little huckster help from Miss Hastings, and freaked out at landing atop Mr Donovan. The good Father was last seen running screaming into town.

After conferring, and setting some local Mexican workers to take care of Mr Donovan, the posse gathered their horses and headed out on the road to Mimbres to follow the trail of the man in the stove-pipe hat.

With Tolliver showing some expertise with horses they made it as far as the site of the previous wall crawler attack on Oscar, the Kid and John Phillipe when Father O'Murphy spotted movement high up on the canyon wall...

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Chapter 6 - Crawling into Mimbres

Published October 7, '08

Father O'Murphy gaped in terror as Tolliver calmly aimed up the Wall Crawler and the rest of the posse tried to spot the darn creature. Suddenly it made a lightening fast dash for the back of the wagon and tried to feed on the sleeping El Guapo, taking a chunk of wagon instead. With Tolliver and Oscar's shots cracking it's exo-skeleton, it took hold of the Mexican and prepared to run off with it's meal. This was enough to awaken El Guapo from his slumber and he landed an almighty punch on the creature's noggin which stunned it and gave the posse plenty of time to finish it off.

With the excitement over, and no further wall crawlers showing their heads, the posse headed on towards Mimbres.

After another hour or so they spotted smoke on the horizon and Gattamalatta soared with the Eagle to scout out the situation in Mimbres. He saw a small run-down old mining town with the old stables (Jeb's Stablery) spewing forth the white-green smoke they had come to associate with ghost rock.

As the posse arrived at Mimbres Angry Bear noticed a young lookout scamper away. He went to investigate while the rest of the posse settled in for a drink and some lunch at the local saloon. He found that the tracks led to Jeb's which now had two armed youths on guard. In a brief conversation he learned that they were on the lookout for a fancy Englishman and a Frenchman.

Meanwhile back at the saloon Miss Hastings 'happened' to overhear two old men in the corner discussing whether these strangers would mean trouble starting soon. Tolliver started up a conversation with the men - Old Bill and Jeb himself - hearing a bit about trackless steam trains, local indians, and other town goings-on, amongst the crazy old man mutterings.

After their meal the posse headed over to the old stable and approached it from several directions at once prepared to deal with whatever the man in the stove-pipe hat had in store for them.

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Chapter 7 - In the Lair of The Man in the Stove Pipe Hat

Published October 14, '08

At the rear of the stable Oscar, The Kid, Gattamalatta, and Miss Hastings attempted entry. Gattamalatta entered via the small aqueduct carrying water inside while The Kid decided that dynamite made the best lock pick.

Meanwhile out the front Tolliver overawed the young guards while Father O'Murphy held up the falling-down-drunk El Guapo. A small mechanical device emerged from the stable and, after being shot up by O'Murphy and El Guapo, delivered a note that read:

Gareth come inside if you dare to meet your doom!

The posse entered the stable from front and back and encountered various fiendish prank traps including: a giant custard pie, an elaborately automated exploding cigar trick,and a somewhat dynamite affected kicking boot. The Man in the Stovepipe Hat was chased down to the upper level from which he launched an Ornithopterial device and made his escape. He did however loose his hat to some Legendary shooting from Oscar and his contraption took considerable damage but managed to fly him away to the nearby Mimbres Hills.

After the confrontation, examination of the stove-pipe hat showed the name Nathaniel Smythe Esquire. Gareth, aka The Tinkerin' Kid, could not recall anyone by that name and neither could his uncle. The posse settled down for the night in the stable, lulled off to sleep by the pounding of the Kid's inventin' hammer.

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Chapter 8 - Snakes, Why did it have to be Snakes!

Published November 18, '08

After a good nights rest and a hearty breakfast in Mimbres the posse decided to head upriver and visit the local Pueblo indians.

With the Kid drivin' this newly acquired steam wagon they set out. It was not long before Gattamalatta discovered the tracks of three riders coming from the direction they were heading. When the posse stopped to water the horses they discovered some fresh cougar tracks and an oddly behaving snake that, on closer examination, had two tongues.

After a rather muddy river crossing the landscape began to become more and more twisted and unnatural. The posse could also see many dozens of snakes around them - some with two heads. Barely an hour later they came to a point where they had to leave the wagons behind and climb a twisted trail up into the hills. Along the way Tolliver spied a cougar lying in wait and Angry Bear, even as he saw that it's head was a mass of snakes, struck it a mighty killing blow. In celebration he then decapitated the creature and hurled it's head at the feet of the rest of the posse. Unfortunately the sight of the unnatural head caused Shamus a moment of great fear in which he thought his heart might give in, and left him with a major phobia of snakes.

Reaching the end of the path the posse saw a Dali-esque landscape of twisted trees and half melted adobe cliff dwellings. Tolliver and Oscar bravely strode forward to investigate while Gattamalatta needed the encouragement of Angry Bear to move forward. Climbing a deformed ladder those who had advanced entered a one-room dwelling while a large number of snakes circled them and watched their every move. Tolliver leapt over a whole in the floor to gather up and light a lantern that was lying beside a camp bed and some digging tools. The lit lantern revealed painting on the walls which spurred some memories for Angry Bear and reminded Miss Hastings of something she had read in John Phillipe's notes. After examining the paintings Tolliver shone the lantern into the hole in the floor revealing a mass of snake-like creatures writhing around the desiccated bodies of the Pueblo indians.

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Chapter 9 - All Hell Breaks Loose

Published November 25, '08

Meanwhile, a little while after the rest of the posse left him, El Guapo awakened in the back of the wagon and saw snakes all around on the ground except for a clear path to the track up the hillside. He released one of the horses from the wagon and followed the rest of the posse up the winding track. Catching up with the unconscious Shamus and the mumbling Kid on the twisted plateau left him with a slight case of the willies as he made his way to the ladder leading to the cliff dwelling he had spied the others in.

At about this time Mis Hastings was surreptitiously stepping back into a shadow in the corner only discover herself at the mercy of the Manitou and shadow-stepping into a very bad place.

As this happened Oscar suddenly reached out and attempted to tumble Tolliver and Gattamalatta into the hole in the floor. Both stood their ground so he stepped back and sprayed the room with gunfire. Chaos ensued as Gattamalatta slashed with his sabre, Tolliver drew and fired, Angry Bear charged the red-eyed maniacal Oscar down, the snakes in the room sprang into attack, and El Guapo arrived in time to deal with some serpents. After a short battle Oscar was left unconscious, with the glow fading from his eyes, and the snakes had all been dispatched.

Miss Hastings, meanwhile, had succumbed to hypnotism and was being fed upon. Breaking the spell all she knew was that she was in a dark place with a 30 foot long monstrosity attacking her. A soulblast did no more than scratch it and then it lunged at her with it's horned head causing a grievous wound and making her cry out in pain.

Up above this cry was heard and the rest of the posse approached the hole to see if they could save her in time.

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Chapter 10 - Saving Miss Hastings

Published December 2, '08

While Miss Hastings bravely ran away from the monstrosity the rest of the posse decided on their individual courses of action to save her. Tolliver threw a bag with oil flasks into the hole and burst it into fire with his precision shootin'. Angry bear leapt down to fight the smaller creatures they could see, El Guapo calmly reloaded, Shamus and Gattamalatta attempted to heal Oscar who soon lurched to his feet looking half-dead and The Kid commenced making something probably destined to be named Dynamite Plus.

As Tolliver and Angry Bear attacked the creature - identified by Angry Bear as an Uktena from the Hunting Grounds - Miss Hastings blasted it with her hexy powers. Hatchet and pistol wounds healed but Miss Hastings blasts were causing permanent damage. El Guapo began emptying his pistol into the Uktena's exposed back just as Gattamalatta dropped onto it's back, drew his sabre and with a mighty blow struck through the Uktena and his sabre erupted from it's rainbow-coloured throat. The beast collapsed and immediately split into chucks of flesh - exposing a bullet sized crystal that Gattamalatta had struck. The crystal dissolved and a strange mist rose up through the hole and entered Oscars nostrils.

While the posse was ponderin' this a pair of emaciated indians staggered down the corridor from whence the Uktena had come. While the others took care of them Miss Hastings went down the tunnel and discovered a rift into the hunting grounds and a hat with a French-Canadian cut. While she struggled with the Manitou to uncover the recent history of the hat Angry Bear dragged her back to the main chamber where the posse discussed what to do next.

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Chapter 11 - 15 Years Ago...

Published December 16, '08

Most of the posse headed down to investigate the rift leaving The Kid' tinkerin' up a large explosive device and El Guapo taking another nap. During their investigations Tolliver stuck a bone through the rift only to feel something grab the other end. A tug-of-war ensued which was ended by Angry Bear grabbing the bone and pulling.

What emerged was an arm and then a face composed of entwined snakes with a set of red glowing eyes deep within the face. While Tolliver was struck with The Willies, Angry Bear had his suppressed memories come crashing back...

Fifteen years ago young Walking Bear and his tribe mates were hunting and returned home to find the white-man murdering, raping and pillaging their village. They tried to stop it but most of them were killed by the Confederate soldiers.

Walking Bear survived and spent the next year helping the Yankees against the Confederates until one day the soldiers he was helping did the same thing to a farming community. In a rage he slaughtered the soldiers and became Angry Bear.

As dawn broke a group of Indians rode up. Their leader, Raven, said that they were the only survivors of their various tribes, the Last Sons, and were going to bring down a reckoning on the white-man for all that he had done to the indian nations. Angry Bear joined them and they rode North East for many days until they arrived in Micmac territory.

After a nights dancing and painting they all drank a brew that Raven had concocted and began the final day of their mission. Riding into a Micmac burial area they stormed one burial mound and entered a rift to the hunting grounds. Once inside they disposed of the Micmac guards and began to slaughter the many old shaman who where holding the Manitou at bay. As the Manitou began to break free and an even greater, older presence approached Angry Bear realised the evil that he was doing and turned to flee the Hunting Grounds. As he left the rift he turned back to see a giant being composed of insects squeezing through after him. He fled as the reckoner slaughtered the Micmacs their bodies exploding with disease as it touched them.

Angry Bear awoke some time later under the care of Gattamalatta who went on to become his mentor over the many years they wandered the land together.

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Chapter 12 - Not With a Bang but a Whimper

Published December 23, '08

The Posse sprang into action attacking the snake-being with Miss Hastings miraculously dodging a Soulblast sent in her direction and Oscar catching it's eyes and seemingly mesmerising it and allowing Angry Bear to strike true and hard with his hatchet before thrusting the creature back into the rift.

As everyone caught their breath the kid finished his ghost-rock bomb, brought it to the rift chamber and started looking for the perfect place to put it so they could bury the rift under the mountain. Angry Bear and Oscar looked on and the remainder of the posse began to move the Sh amen away from the blast zone. They had barely started when Angry Bear spied a strange transparent creature wriggling it's way out of the Kid's armoured vest. His hands passed right through it as it wriggled free and dived into the Ghost Rock Bomb. Angry Bear calmly picked up the bomb and went to throw it into the rift. The Kid quickly lit the fuse on the way past and then the mad scramble to safety began.

After much falling about the entire posse made it to the upper level or out of the cave and then the hillside shuddered. With a cry of "Was that it?" Tolliver grabbed a torch and prepared to satisfy his curiosity as to what had happened to the rift.

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Chapter 13 - Bringin' Down the Mountain

Published December 30, '08

Tolliver and Oscar returned to the rift chamber to see not much changed other than a leg sticking out from the rift itself. Most of the rest of the posse arrived as they began to pull on the leg which slowly dragged a one-legged body out of the rift with most of the Kid's bomb sitting on it's chest. There were also wispy shadowy smokey things reaching out from the rift to the remains of the Ghost rock in the bomb and almost-faces appearing in the light of the rift.

The kid grabbed his bomb and began examining it as Tolliver engrossed himself in searching the body. With the Kid's backpack full of ghost rock turned to the rift manitou spirits forced their way through the rift and grabbed a hold of the backpack. After a brief struggle Gattamalatta had the backpack and the spirit retreated.

The posse then all retreated back to where they had left the horses as The Kid and Oscar planted the bomb, set the fuse and joined them before all headed back towards their wagons. There was another shudder through the mountain and as the remaining snakes were cleared from the wagon area Oscar and Tolliver checked the village and saw that much of the cliff side had collapsed in on itself.

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Chapter 14 - Bending Pine's Story

Published January 13, '09

While the posse rested Gattamalatta painted, appeased the spirits, and was granted the favour of healing the three rescued Shamen back to a state of mere exhaustion.

The posse then moved down river to get away from the area of the rift and set up camp after the Kid bogged his steam wagon in the ford.

In the morning Bending Pine told them his story. Some white men came to his village, enslaved the Shamen and forced them to help open the rift. The Uktena arrived, chaos ensued, he blacked out. He accused Tolliver of being a servant of the Manitou with all his white-man magic Angry Bear stopped him doing anything about it.

Gattamalatta found some Pueblo braves from Bending Pines tribe and when they arrived Bending Pine took another good look around, and began declaiming many of the Posse as servants of the Manitou. Angry Bear remembered things he had seen in his time as a Ravanite and asked in front of all present "So Oscar, how long have you been dead?"

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Chapter 15 - Severing the Rift

Published January 20, '09

At the urging of Bending Pine the Pueblo braves began to charge Oscar who defended himself with his sixguns until Gattamalatta subdued him with his still-sheathed sabre. Thinking he knew exactly what was going on with Oscar, Shamus examined his wounds and came away shaking severely. A discussion began but was interrupted by one of the other shamen awakening.

It was discovered that he understood "Mexican" and claimed to know El Guapo from when they had fought the conquistadores together. After a short ritual with a snake all present were able to understand each other and there was much discussion.

His name was Speaks With Snakes and he told them many things: he could feel two rifts, El Guapo had gathered them to fulfil destiny, Oscar had the manitou within dominated, the rifts were stabilised by draining his essence, he could see that they had defeated the Uktena, and they needed to perform a ritual of severance. All the indians present began the ceremony. After many hours of dancing and chanting all power was focused in Gattamalatta's sabre and Speaks with Snakes bared his chest so his brother El Guapo could strike the severing blow. El Guapo could not face the situation and had to be helped by Angry Bear who struck truly despite the burning of his hand. As it all finished Angry Bear noticed that his right hand had lost the black stain and Shamus pointed out that Oscar and the Kid had ridden off half an hour earlier.

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Chapter 16 - Catching Up with Old Friends

Published January 27, '09

After bidding farewell to Bending Pine and his tribe the rest of the posse set off after Oscar and The Kid. They soon found that their horse had turned off the main track and sent El Guapo with the wagon back the way they had come while they continued to track Oscar and The Kid.

On the plain between the Mimbres hills and the Coppertown hills they encountered the ghostly 14th Illinois union infantry marching to War and followed them into the hills. Meanwhile Oscar and The Kid, noticing a furrow in the ground go past them and over the hills straight towards the rest of the posse, decided to turn back and help.

The furrow stopped at the posse and became a sinkhole as they scrambled to get out of it's way. Gattamalatta's horse was struggling free from the many tentacles reaching out from the bottom of the sinkhole as The Kid lobbed a stick of dynamite into the hole. When the dust cleared Gattamalatta let loose a war cry and charged towards Oscar.

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Chapter 17 - Gattamalatta's Charge

Published February 10, '09

Oscar and Shakespeare backed away as Gattamalatta tried to close the distant, there was lot's of yelling back and forth from the posse members and then the ground began to rumble as the wagon bearing El Guapo and Miss Hastings caught up with the posse.

The thing in the tunnel sprang back to life and made it's way towards the wagon which caused El Guapo to veer off and head for the safety of some rocks upturning the wagon in the process. Tolliver and miss hastings finished off the confused creature while Shamus fired encouragingly into the air.

Meanwhile Shakespeare knocked Gattamalatta to the ground and then Oscar tumbled through the tunnel roof and the two of them headed down to the site of the creatures death. As Gattamalatta began to argue with the posse for detaining Oscar Shamus noticed the fires of Coppertown burning on the horizon.

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Chapter 18 - War comes to Coppertown

Published February 17, '09

Leaving Oscar, The Kid and Angry Bear to fix the wagon the rest of the posse headed on towards Coppertown. Along the way they met some Mexican's from the Arrowhead mine heading to town to help fight the army.

Upon reaching town they found that a Confederate cavalry squad was riding through town attacking and burning as they went. Gunfire could be heard in the Mexican quarter and several buildings had disappeared into sinkholes.

El Guapo, Miss Hastings and Shamus all headed off separately into town, while Gattamalatta painted with Tolliver looking after him. Another burrowing creature made a direct line for Shamus and as he fumbled with his cross it burst from the ground preparing to engulf him. El Guapo took a shot and Miss Hastings had a manitou try to fry her brain. Shamus stood his ground as the thing launched itself through the air with too much force and end up burning and writhing on the sacred ground of the church.

Shortly after the posse realised that the troops marching into Coppertown from the other side of town were from the Mexican army.

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Chapter 19 - Running Up That Hill

Published February 24, '09

Oscar and The Kid arrived on the jury-rigged wagon and after a brief skirmish with the Confederate cavalry Oscar joined the rest of the posse. As they discussed what to do several figures where spotted on the top of the Devil's Mountain spur and as Tolliver pointed them out he was hit by a crack rifle shot. The posse sprang into action with Oscar heading to town to help his friend Jose Green and the rest making for the top of the hill. Shots rained down as everyone got closer and those that had stayed behind had to face another Mojave Rattler. Shamus held it off with his cross and broke the control that was being exerted upon it. At this point the figures departed down the other side of the hill with Tolliver, Angry Bear and Gattamalatta getting close to the crest of the spur.

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Chapter 20 - The Spooky Mansion

Published March 10, '09

Oscar arrived at Le Casa Royale the Mexican miners stronghold where Jose asked him where he had been for the past week and then explaining that the Mexican Army had supplied them with weapons four days previously. They were distracted by the ghost legion brutally slaughtering their way past the hotel and through the town. Oscar decided to follow and see what they were up to.

Tolliver and then the others reached the top of the spur of Devil's Mountain to find the figures that had been there minutes before were nowhere to be seen. Eventually Shamus spotted them entering a mansion just over a mile away. The posse moved down the spur as the Mexican army began bombarding the town with their cannon. While the posse descended, the Ghost Legion exited town and easily defeated a company of the Mexican army that charged them.

Tolliver reached the bottom of the spur and was able to catch up with the Ghost Legion as they reached the foot of Devil's Mountain. He spoke briefly with Captain Brown about his orders who then agitatedly ordered his men "Forward men, we march to War!" after which they marched into the side of Devil's Mountain.

The posse then converged on the Beasly mansion and searched it finding weapons, whisky, cigars, pornography, torture devices and finally a tunnel in the basement that had the stench of Mojave Rattler and footprints leading into it. They gathered themselves and entered the tunnel.

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Chapter 21 - Into the Tunnel

Published March 17, '09

Gattamalatta caught up with the posse after meditating on the situation in Coppertown and they all entered the tunnel in the basement. They traveled for a while, tracking the two figures and passing many smaller side tunnels, until they arrived at a large chamber with a sacrificial altar in it's centre. Tolliver and Gattamalatta examined the altar and Oscar looked around, discovering ghostly items dropped by the 14th Illinois. At about this time Miss Hastings began having some strange recollections. After moving the altar the posse moved on up the tunnel.

They had not gone very far before a rifle shot rang out and Oscar was hit. He and Shamus sprang into action rushing and firing down the tunnel at the dim figure they saw there. The rest of the posse prepared themselves and destiny shone on El Guapo as he felt the urge to look to the rear at just the right time to see a tall man in a duster step out of the shadows. El Guapo, Tolliver and Gattamalatta opened fire on him and Miss Hastings shadow-stepped further down the corridor to be behind him. Tolliver recognised the man as Black Feetla who appeared to be badly injured. He dived into some shadow, bounced off the wall, caught sight of Miss Hastings, smirked and said "Good girl, you actually made it.". Caroline was momentarily lost in remembrances of her sister's supernatural death. Still coming under withering fire Black Feetla muttered "You won't stop me this time around." and wrapped himself in his duster which then dropped to the ground empty.

The posse caught their breath and Miss Hastings had a hunch from the duster that Black Feetla, or Stone as she recalled him, had recently forced the remaining Beasly brother into powering another rift. Gattamalatta asked the spirits for guidance and the posse followed him as he tracked Black Feetla.

Eventually they came out into the mine proper and to the entrance of a large unnatural cavern dominated by a glowing rift entrance.

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Chapter 22 - Black Feetla on the Rocks

Published March 24, '09

One by one the posse entered the rift and were enveloped by a glowing white timeless nothingness.

One by one the posse exited the rift although with much longer between each members exit than entrance. They found themselves in a continuation of the mine tunnel although one that felt more alive and, as they moved on, showed more and more signs of nature. Eventually they squeezed out of a small earth tunnel to find themselves beside a pleasant but run-down looking pool. After a short conversation with one of the last spirit-animals in this part of the hunting grounds the posse headed of in the direction of the darkened horizon.

A short time into their travel they noticed a blood-darkened patch of grass and a trail that lead to an extensive group of rock outcroppings. Shamus noticed a glinting from one of the outcroppings and the posse then rapidly went in many directions as they raced inhumanly fast across the grasslands to the rocks. Once there Tolliver and Miss Hastings discovered a decoy mirror, Gattamalatta found himself lost, and Oscar was called out by Black Feetla. In the ensuing gunfight Feetla gunned down Oscar, emptied his guns into him, exclaimed "Still not a threat to me this time around Oscar" and took off rapidly through the rocks.

Upon hearing the volley of shooting the rest of the posse converged on Oscar's location - except for Miss Hastings. She was left behind and was suddenly confronted by her sisters ex-husband Jasper Stone aka Black Feetla. Having no use for his disguise Stone shucked off the skin of Black Feetla revealing his loathsome visage. Calling on all her arcane knowledge Caroline soul blasted him with enough energy to kill any mortal but he laughed it off and thanked her as dark shapes began to streak across the sky towards them. Just as he was about to finish her off she focused her will and stepped back as rapidly as she could leaving him empty handed.

The rest of the posse arrived shortly after, having made great haste towards the dark cloud forming back where Miss Hastings had last been seen. Tolliver arrived first and Stone described him as a surprise replacement for the reporter this time around. Oscar called out Stone from the rocks and he was visibly surprised and then all hell broke loose as the posse shot him and Gattamalatta hacked away with his sabre. The onslaught forced Stone to turn insubstantial and flee.

In the silence that followed the posse heard Miss Hastings begin blowing on the bugle from the 14th Illinois and the answering call come from the darkened horizon. Making their way to Miss Hastings the posse stared at the glow on the darkened horizon as black clouds covered the sky above them and they all sensed something bad coming. El Guapo ran back to the rocks. Tolliver and then Shamus were able to make out details of the 14th Illinois mixed in with Mediaeval Knights, Conquistadores, other assorted warriors, and in their midst "... another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." - War, second horseman of the Apocalypse and reckoner coming from deep within the hunting grounds.

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Chapter 23 - The Great Sacrifice

Published March 31, '09

While the rest of the posse all attempted to flee - some of them back to the rift, others just away - Oscar, stayed until last to make sure his companions were safe. When he turned to leave he failed to believe that he could get away and was soon overrun by a group of the ghost legion that had peeled off to attack him while the rest followed Miss Hastings.

Meanwhile Shamus was in an area of the Hunting Grounds that was becoming a Deadland, Miss Hastings was in the middle of the dying grasslands listening to the bugle from the 14th coming closer, El Guapo stumbled and found himself watching War and the Ghost legion closing in on Miss Hastings, and Tolliver and Gattamalatta had arrived back at the glen near the tunnel and realised the rest of the posse had lost themselves in the hunting grounds. Tolliver brought all his will together and called out for the others to return to the rift. One by one they returned - Miss Hastings just before the ghost legion enveloped her - and the posse made their hurried way down the tunnel and back into the rift.

Upon reaching the rift Shamus and Gattamalatta leapt through and the rest of the posse joined hands and followed as a group. Shamus exited on his own but sensed a presence in the chamber with him. Stone revealed himself, subdued the preacher and began to heal himself using Shamus's soul. Gattamalatta found himself in the rift and moved through it's timelessness to find the remnants of Beasly powering it. He severed that connection and the rift visibly weakened. The rest of the posse arrived in time to distract Stone who cast Shamus aside and prepared to take the real threats on. With sustained attack the posse began to gain the upper hand on Stone and when Shamus blew his lower leg away with a blessed blast from his shotgun he was forced to flee through the rift only an inch away from total defeat.

With the distant sound of bugling coming through the rift the posse tried to convince El Guapo to take a central position in the hurried ceremony to close the rift and eventually, with Miss Hastings help, he drove the sabre through Gattamalatta and the rift was closed.

The tired and wounded posse members collected themselves and began to make their way out of the mines, knowing that they had succeeded in thwarting the plans of the Reckoners.

For now...

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