Nov 062015
 

The morning started out well for the posse. They had already started clearing up the problems in Coffin Rock, and now it was time to press their advantage. But to do that they needed a hearty breakfast. And so the posse supped on fine biscuits and burned bacon. And as they were eating, they were joined not only by Tens, but by Fast Cloud as well! It seems that she had stolen off in the night, informing only Kicking Bird of her plans to “see the White Man’s world.” She had arrived the previous morning and had been keeping Tens company the entire day. Which explained her absence and her new friend.

+Digression: Funnily enough, RC had gotten the Love Interest adventure card, and promptly played it the moment she spotted Fast Cloud. This should prove to be a really interesting relationship. For now she’s a simple extra and follower, but has the potential to become a wild card. My only regret in bringing her back is the sheer number of bad jokes that have popped up.

As the posse ate, Tens took a look at Zeke’s hand and did what she could for the gunsmith. A small amount of work and tinkering fixed him up with a simple grasping device, and she promised him that if she had more time she could come up with something much better. Which prompted Tens to check her father’s notes. He had a fair bit to say about Augmentations and the works of Dr. Gash. He wasn’t all that complementary of the Doctor and of Formula X-19. The man didn’t trust any scientist who didn’t publish his formula. But he hadn’t stopped at criticism: Ten’s father had nearly finished a formula that would function much like X-19. If Tens had the time, she could give Zeke a clockwork hand, better than the original!

+Digression: I’ll admit that I utterly love the steam augmentations in the back of the 1880 Smith & Robards Catalog. It’s a cool concept and if RC invests in it, she’ll be able to install them herself.

Zeke aided and breakfast finished, the posse rolled out of the Crystal River and started poking around the town again. Their first stop was the general store, which was covered in a strange fungus and filled with the sound of buzzing. The posse opened the door to investigate and were immediately assaulted by a massive swarm of insects! The vermin proved to be quite a challenge, nearly dropping T. Saint John and Pearl before being dispatched. The vermin dead, the posse saw to their wounds and started examining the general store. It wasn’t long before T. Saint John found an inverted bronze cross covered in mildew. The moment the cross was uncovered, the bell of the church tolled, just like when someone died. Figuring that was a bad sign, the posse borrowed a pair of tongs from the blacksmith, Jonah Thurgood. The cross was carefully taken down with the tongs, and then melted to slag in a pot full of burning coals.

+Digression: I’d never noticed just how useful the Investigator stunt was, but T. Saint John rarely has difficulty spotting hidden clues. He’s like a giant-sized Fox Mulder.

+Digression: One important note here: for this day Juan Tomas Longknife is dressed to the nines. He’s got on his good suit, and his Ranger badge on full display.

This naturally caught the attention of Jonah, who chatted with the posse just a bit. He had figured out that something was wrong with the mirrors, and so had blackened all of the reflective surfaces around his place. After a bit of questioning, the posse confirmed their suspicions about the Reverend. As they left, Jonah told them that they should go and speak with Ray over at the Six Feet Under, as he’d probably want to know that his store was vermin free. The posse agreed and headed over to the Six Feet Under.

The Six Feet Under was a run-down and dusty saloon. And while it had definitely seen better days, it seemed to be a bit better off than some of the places in town. Still, it had it’s share of problems. Most of the posse spotted what appeared to be demons in the shots of whiskey, though it might have been a trick of the light. Even stranger, all of the water stains in the bar looked a bit too much like the coffin rock. T. Saint John quickly informed the posse that they shouldn’t drink, but not before Fast Cloud downed her first two shots! The drink got her all ‘riled up, but Tens was able to at least calm her a bit.

Since they weren’t drinking, the posse quickly took stock of the room. The bartender was terse and not much for conversation. But a haggard man in a once-fine suit drinking absinthe looked like he had a tale or two. As did the piano player with the bandaged arm, and the former showgirl sweeping the floors. And of course there was Ray, sitting at a table with four miners playing cards and getting far too drunk. Tens and Juan Tomas decided to talk to the suited gentleman staring at the fine watch. Sister Mary went to tend to the piano player’s arm, and T. Saint John and Pearl kept an eye on things.

The absinthe drinker quickly revealed himself as Mayor Wilfred Hambly. He slurred on about how the town had gotten worse, and after Tens gave him the full Orphan Stare, he let slip that he had seen a spirit trapped in the mine. He claimed that it was being tortured by the Reverend. But that was about all he knew, beside the fact that the watch Tens had been eyeing was a gift from Daly. Meanwhile, Sister Mary had convinced Mike Hall, the pianist, that he should have his arm looked at. The sister uncovered it and quickly realized that the the “good” Doctor had done far more than “remove a canker.” The arm was badly infected and long past the aid of miracles. But Sister Mary was a skilled healer, and with the help of the showgirl, Lizzie Pierce, the arm was patched up good as new.

+Digression: JAZ rolled amazing on her healing roll. Which was awesome, as she had just taken the Healer edge with her latest advance. It was nice to see the dice assist the edge for once.

As the sister was cleaning up, Lizzie pulled her aside and asked her for help. She had once been one of the girls at the Jewel Theater, but had left when they’d started growing dark. She had been so scared, in fact, that she’d left her hope chest at the Jewel Theater. She hoped that the sister would help her retrieve it. Sister Mary agreed without a second thought, which lightened Lizzie’s spirits a fair bit.

Meanwhile, Juan Tomas and T. Saint John went over to tell Ray that his store was clear. At first he seemed a bit blase, but some encouraging words and the promise of money quickly roused him. Then Juan Tomas went on to convince the miners to help Ray, tell them that he’d pay for a few meals and give them some money. The miners, at first hesitant, quickly agreed. Getting them to agree to stay of the drink, however, was more difficult. But in the end the two men were able to persuade Ray and the Miners to sober up, at least until the problems in Coffin Rock subsided. The promise of free room and board at the Crystal River was just the carrot they needed.

+Digression: MJ didn’t exactly roll amazing all night, but I don’t think he ever had a bad persuasion roll. The character is quickly becoming something of a Face. Noble adds +2 Charisma, and the Ranger’s badge adds another +2 when used. So he can kick out some serious results, and the player has been pretty good about trying to talk first when it’s an option.

Clues aplenty, the posse left the Six Feet Under, with Juan Tomas nearly dragging the Mayor along with him. Juan Tomas marched the mayor to the sheriff’s office and showed him the bodies of the dead outlaws and Sheriff Bryce. The mayor blinked drunkenly, grabbed Bryce’s badge, and then pinned it, with some pain and difficulty, on Juan Tomas. It seemed that Juan Tomas was now the Sheriff of Coffin Rock. At which point the newly appointed sheriff locked the Mayor in a jail cell with some water and a bucket. For his own safety.

+Digression: This was just a really clever move on the part of the posse. Had they not locked him up, he would have walked off that night and committed suicide.

Once more outside, the posse paused as they saw a trail of smoke atop Coffin Rock. Juan Tomas and Fast Cloud could tell that they were smoke signals. They read, roughly, “Up here, dumbass!” The posse decided it was time to check them out, but as they passed by the Assay office, Sister Mary felt a shiver run by her spine. It was enough to slow the posse, giving them the chance to spot what appeared to be a mob inside the Assay Office. The posse quickly opened the door and found nearly a dozen townsfolk who had more than succumbed to greed! And behind the counter was Ike Turnbull, the Assayer. He was sitting on the counting table, clutching his pickaxe and bags of coffee. They were his precious.

It was only then that the townsfolk realized that the posse all had a lot of shiny stuff. But before the riot could really break out, Juan Tomas and T. Saint John started speaking with the crowd. While at first there were commands, the conversation took a turn for the confusing as Juan Tomas started to bamboozle them with strange questions, like “what’s for the dinner?” Now more confused than bloodthirsty, a quick prayer from Sister Mary put them to sleep. That situation defused, the party was about to relax when the basement door burst opening, revealing four shambling miners! Ike, now overcome by greed, didn’t seem all that bothered that his former victims were now up and walking around!

But the posse had an answer, and that answer was Tens. With a flick of her strange glove, she drained the kinetic energy from the crawlin’ dead Ike, rendering them motionless! This gave T. Saint John enough time to bust the lock on the cage door, then rush inside to grab Ike, who took a single swing at him. But the zombies remained stuck in amber, which allowed Juan Tomas and Sister Mary to dispatch them with ease. One good thump later, and T. Saint John knocked out Ike and the posse was free to check the place out. It didn’t have much to interest great heroes, and so they locked it up and tossed Ike in another cell. And now that there were two guests in the jailhouse, the posse took a few minutes to clean the place up.

+Digression: This wasn’t much of an interesting fight, but it really wasn’t supposed to be. I love that my posse using words when they can, which is great. And the thing with the zombies was more to see if they could save Ike, not kill a bunch of lame zombies. I figured they would go well, but what did surprise me is just how GOOD the Entangle power is. On a normal raise it lowers pace and parry, but on a raise they can’t move or use Strength or Agility linked skills at all! Note that Shooting and Fighting are linked to Agility! The power can completely shut down a warrior.

The jail at least moderately cleaned, the posse now knew what they had to do. It was time to check out coffin rock. The posse stopped by the Crystal River to check on Carl, then grabbed their horses and rode out to the eponymous natural feature. The trek up the side of the rock wasn’t all that difficult, and as the sun was beginning to set they came upon a shaman sitting on a log, roasting a lizard of a fire. He told the posse “it’s about time” and then invited them to sit. He introduced himself as Laughs with Darkness, and soon was explaining the situation to the party. There was a great darkness in the town, one he couldn’t clear up himself. But if the posse was willing to face his test, they could perhaps help.

He asked each posse member if they would join him in his kiva, and all of them agreed. He lead them down into the smokey interior and tossed some herbs on the fire. It flared with mauve flame and Laughs at Darkness fixed them all with a very serious stare. He told them that they would have to pass a very dangerous test to earn his aid. He asked each posse member if they were up to the task, and all agreed. He then broke into laughter and said that they’d passed the test! And then things started getting hazy as the posse started breathing in the strange smoke. None were driven away, and before long each posse member had fallen into a deep sleep.

And then they all found themselves on a spirit quest. Their astral forms floated up above coffin rock and then zoomed down the valley toward the cooked earth mine. Their forms sunk into the earth, and there they were met by the earth spirit Tacheene. None saw him exactly the same way, but all could see that it was cruelly bound with bands of black energy that held it in the air, away from the source of its power. The spirit looked at them all and begged them for help. He had been trapped by Reverend Cheval, who had used sky magic to bind the spirit. Now the Reverend was feeding off Tacheene’s power! The posse tried to free him, but in the end all they could do was tossed some spiritual stones on the spirit to give it a bit more time. And then things faded to black and the posse awoke in the kiva, feeling rested and ready to face the troubles ahead. Laughs at Darkness was nowhere around, but the posse had the feeling they’d see him again.

+Digression: Some great rolls from everyone, but the thing I really want to comment on is the adventure itself. The wrote “Laughs at Darkness has disappeared, never to be seen again.” Which is not what you want to write if you want any decent GM to not use him again! They even give you a stat block for him (I have no idea why, as you’re not expected to fight him and he’s more than powerful enough to take down the posse by fiat). Plus I loved the interplay between him and Juan Tomas, so he’ll be back at some point.

The party emerged from the Kiva near dawn, filled with vim and vigor. They quickly made it down coffin rock and found their horses waiting for them. They mounted up and started heading toward the cooked earth mine. They made quick progress, but were stopped when they heard a woman shouting for help. T. Saint John took off immediately, with the rest of the posse not far behind. They quickly came upon a beautiful woman trying to fend off a horrid creature! The creature was shaped like a man, but it was covered in blood red mud. The posse didn’t even slow down as they rode toward danger. Juan Tomas snatched the woman up into his saddle with practiced ease, whisking her away from danger. And then Pearl rode past and beheaded the blood man with a single expertly placed shotgun blast!

The danger now over, the posse slowed up near the woman’s badly injured horse. The sight of the wounded animal caused Pearl great distress, and she immediately jumped from the saddle and started calming it. She then quickly rubbed some herbs on the wounds, and miraculously, the horse got up, now healed! Meanwhile, the party found out that the woman was one Shelly Pearl Daly, the daughter of John Daly! She had come to Coffin Rock to be with her father, but had arrived to late. Upon learning who she was, Sheriff Bryce tried to kill her. She barely escaped with her life.

+Digression: With her promotion to Wild Card, Pearl’s hidden edge comes into play: she’s a Breech Birth. Once per session, for a fate point, she can use Greater Healing without the need to roll or spend power points. I have a great fondness for this knack, and find that it’s awesome to slap on a follower as an emergency heal. Though in this case her great love of horses caused her to burn it on the poor injured horse!

The group informed Shelly that Bryce had been killed, which immediately earned them a lot of affection and respect. Shelly then told the posse that she and some of the other women and children had holed up not too far away. Mounted on her freshly healed horse, Shelly led the group through some scrub and into what appeared to be a large makeshift work camp. Most of the residents were women, their children, and men either too old or infirm to fight back. The posse was quick to tell the camp that they’d be able to go home soon, but for now they needed to hunker down. Which was when Shelly and her friend, Clementine, informed the posse that they had a problem.

It seems that self-styled outlaw, one Hank “Mayhem” Archer, and his Mayhem Gang, had set up shop in a cave not too far from their camp. They’d been trying to capture the women in the camp for almost a week, but to not avail. Shelly and Clementine were handy in a scrap, but most of the rest of the camp couldn’t do more than defend themselves. And so Shelly asked the posse to intervene, to which they agreed readily. Though the promise of a large bounty was certainly a good incentive. The posse huddled together with Shelly and Clementine, asking them questions about terrain. After a short palaver, the posse and Clementine rode off toward the bandit camp.

The poor bandits never really saw the posse coming. The posse had the advantage of terrain knowledge, superior skill, and the blessings of the Almighty himself. One by one they crept up to the bandits, while T. Saint John followed slightly behind, pushing a small wagon filled with barrels and oil-soaked rags. And then the posse struck in unison, taking down all of the exterior guards before they had a chance to give a cry. Which was when T. Saint John pushed the cart into the mouth of the cave. He bellowed a laugh as he set the thing alight, trapping “Mayhem” and his gang inside a smoke filled cave. It wasn’t the most glorious of battles, but it sure was effective!

+Digression: Sometimes the PCs just roll over an encounter. They had the advantage of terrain, skill, and tactics. Plus Sister Mary boosted everyone’s Stealth, so sneaking up was easy. A free round of attacks with the drop is nothing to sneeze at! Plus we were really pressing up against time, so we skimmed over a lot of this fight. But I don’t think would have been all that tough, to be honest.

The gang dispatched, the posse and Clementine rode back to the camp to inform everyone that they were safe: from the bandits, at least. But there was still the underlying problem. A problem the posse was now ready to face.

To Be Continued Next Week…