The story so far……
Having found Mrs. Rankine in the capture of the Huà Lóng at one of their warehouses the posse begins making plans for returning to Boonville. Mr. Everlocke has stated his interest in returning with the steam wagon with the thought that Rufus can fix it up back at his newly inherited workshop. Being devout religious people Rufus, his wife, and Jesus find a local service while Beatrice and Ryan collect Beatrice’s horse to pull the broken down steam wagon back to Rankine Labs. Making only one short detour in town for Ryan to pick up a bounty poster for “One-Eye Willy.” Although the firefight with the Hua Long occurred within the city limits of Shan Fan neither the local Sheriff, Long Hair Tony, nor any of the triads were on scene when the posse returned to claim their prize.
Head on down the road
With Sunday church having extended into their morning, the group procures some camping gear from a local general store with the anticipation of having to camp along the road. In the mid-afternoon hours, they encounter the following scene:
“Looking to the sky on your ride back to Boonville you see some California condors circling in the sky, about 200 yards east of the road. You continue on the road thinking that it must just be some critter they found and (make a Cognition check TN 7) notice a bloody boot on the side of the road next to a trailhead that heads east.”
“You follow the trail through some underbrush for about 50 yards occasionally finding scraps of torn fabric snagged on the bushes before it opens into a large clearing. 150 yards ahead you behold a ghastly sight. What was once a camp lies in ruins; smoke from smoldering campfires wafts into the air as a pack of coyotes gnaw on the remains of the camps former occupants. Body parts and entrails are strewn about the camp like tissue paper on a Christmas morning. A condor swoops down from the sky to pluck the eyeball from the head of one man; his other eye is fixed to the heavens, seeking help from on high. Spots around the former camp are dark brown and muddy where blood has mixed with the resident dirt.”
Surveying the carnage, a weak whimper wafts from one of the overturned wagons. Everlocke unholsters his six-gun and begins creeping cautiously towards the sound. Having caught the sound as well, Beatrice works around to a flanking position opposite her hired gun, steadying her mechanical arm, poised for combat. Slowly the duo pulls back the blood-stained canvas, bodies taught, ready to snap into action.
The midday sun shone on a simpering creature that looked human, although it would have to be a child if it were so. The child-size creature clutched a blood-stained yarn-hair doll in its one free hand, the other trapped, much as the rest of it was, under a pioneer woman’s body. A matted rat’s nest of straw-colored hair stuck to its dirty face, tears welled in the wretched being’s eyes. Beatrice felt as though her chow may come back to visit. The creature was a human child, about five or six, she’d reckon.
Scooping up the girl Beatrice shouts for Ryan to move the body, nonchalantly he flicks his wrist as the woman’s body levitates away from the girl.
The Boys Are Back In Town
After cleaning up the girl from the massacre, the posse sets up camp a mile down the road to rest for the night. Jesus suggests setting up a shift of night watches as the blood may attract wolves, coyotes, or worse. The group of comrades rests throughout the evening, unmolested.
The party continued on its journey home, all the while discussing the young ward they brought in. Rufus, in a rare state of sobriety, agreed that he and his wife would adopt the child. Pawleene had been afflicted by the Devil with a barren womb, her punishment, she claimed, for having sinned with Rufus before marriage.
Cresting the hill outside town, the wagon hobbles along, pulled steadily by Falstaff. The powerful creature’s taut muscles strained with every step it took, the combined weight of the metal wagon and folk riding it slowed the beast.
Rufus steered the wagon listlessly along the Jenkins farm’s fence, slowing up to make the turn up the road to his new warehouse. Darting out from the shrubs a black tentacle lashes out at the wagon, snapping up, twirling and ensnaring Beatrice’s leg. The writhing muscle growing taut, yanking her from the wagon towards the fence. One after another, seven more jet black tendrils whip out from the underbrush, lashing out at the group.
The powerful tentacles catch Everlocke by surprise, ripping him from the wagon and into the eight-foot wide mouth of a Desert Thing. Leaping from the back of the wagon, shovel-gun in hand, Rufus swings down with the blade of his weapon, slashing a tentacle in half. The creature pulls Everlocke into its mouth, chomping down on his leg. Ryan’s screams are drowned out by the sounds of an approaching steam engine.
Struggling with all her might Beatrice breaks free of the tentacle, mere inches from becoming a chew toy herself. She looks towards the sound of the approaching engine, a man astride a steam velocipede barrels up the road towards the posse. Skidding to a halt five yards from the beast he reaches behind him, unslinging a multi-barrelled rifle. The man levels off his rifle, squeezing the trigger and unleashing a rainstorm of bullets into the beast’s mouth. Each round narrowly misses Everlocke, sinking into the creature’s flesh. It’s tentacles convulse violently one last time before going limp, loosening their grip on Everlocke.
The man on the velocipede introduces himself to the posse as the new sheriff of Boonville, Sheriff Winston. He informs the group that some cattle had recently gone missing from the Jenkins homestead, this must have been the beast responsible. During their discussion with the sheriff, it is also revealed that Old Man Wuthers had been arrested on suspicion of his involvement with the massacre along the road to Shan Fan.
Ms. Gregorson doesn’t buy the story; being familiar with Wuthers as a local of Boonville she knows that the old man is a kook, but harmless. She agrees to allow the Rankines to have her stead, Falstaff, pull the wagon to this shop while her and Everlocke head to the Sheriff’s office to question Wuthers.