Blood Drive

First Session-May 25th
Howdy Y'All

Thanks all for a good first session. The posse has been created and has begun to work together. The first task was successful, though with a few bumps and bruises, and the night was rather interesting. I look forward to reading any impressions you care to share.

I was able to find that sound from the online, but it’s an .ogg file. I had to download a different player in order to hear it. I’ll try to remember to bring my laptop next time, so you can all hear it too.

Next Time: Tomorrow Is Another Day!

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Day 1

<translatted>

Dear Diary;
After some travels I have finally made it to outskirts of Sutter’s Flats, what a dismal town, but I should not complain much as the Spirits have seen fit to assist me in my travels. I hope my travels have not been in vain as I heard there was work for the able bodied, while I have a small amount of money it would not buy me land of my own. I will have to work hard here and save what funds I can. Thankfully I have not been harassed by the demon spirit Silcor since I have entered the area; maybe I have finally been able to remove his foul filth from my soul.

Until tomorrow…

Dear Diary;
I am now in Sutter’s Flats and my thoughts yesterday about the area are nicer than they should have been, this town is a dump, nothing of value to be found, maybe 3 buildings of note. But, on a positive note I was able to finally meet Mr. Sutter, he seems to be a fine person, but desperate. While I should not speak ill of a generous man, he choices seem a little strange.

He hired anyone who could draw breath, he hired me on the spot no questions to reference or skills. He hired 4 other strange white men, one with a funny voice and speech, one crazy haired female carrying luggage and who disrespects the Earth Spirits with her use of the sacred ghost rock, one strange fellow in a trench who seems scared of his own shadow, and an even stranger fellow who probably would have been left behind if it wasn’t for his pretty dog. I don’t know if I will ever understand the white man and his strange ways.

I am headed to the Lazy S Ranch for work, so it begins…

Dear Diary;
We have awoken to do work, simple enough at first breaking some horses, important work for what we will be doing. It was then I saw her Beautiful Black Beauty, I was sure the Spirits set her before me to prove myself and my abilities. But, alas my pride and I believe Silcor’s curse prevented me from succeeding where I should have.

A horse such as that does not belong to a strange white man, even if he seems to commune with the Animal Spirits.

The night even through my fatigue forced me to go on watch of the land, very quiet and uneventful.

All that I have traveled and Silcor still lingers within me know this foul beast, my spirit is my own and no one will take it from me.

Until tomorrow…

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Holy @%#$, Sweet Mother of $&%ing @#$*!

Where to start…

First of all Joe, I don’t blame you. That’d be like blaming me for all the wrong that rat bastard Judge Kelly just because we’re both people. If anything you probably saved me.

We just all got ourselves nearly killed by a giant @#$%ing spider!

Let me back up.

I arrived in Sutter’s flats a few days ago desperate for work, and found a man desperate to hire folk, so we made a good match. Babysitting cattle’s not normally my thing, but I need the money don’t I?

First thing I noticed was that (like most ranches) this one was experience a dearth of the fairer sex. There’s two that’ve also been hired on. The Indian lady seemed like a bit of a loner, but the crazy gal seemed nice enough, plus she’s made some kind of poultices that are a real life saver (literally). She might be something to look at if she took better care of herself, but then out on the trail a man can’t afford to be to picky.

I also met Marc, who seemed like a good enough guy, except that the kept blabbing about “manitious,” and acting I like I knew what he was talking about. They man ain’t got no subtlety.

I also met some funny guy white a Gatling pistol, and I hear there’s some guy with a dog too, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him yet.

We spent a day rounding up stray cattle. That night though me and Marc were out patrolling, and we heard calls from a damsel and distress. Well to make a long story short it weren’t no damsel, it was a monsters, and me and Marc blew it into judgement day.

Next day we found some more cattle, alive and dead. The dead ones were killed by spiders, which we killed in turn. At the time I thought they were giant spiders. Little did I know.

Cause the next day we found the mother of all spiders, and it just about ripped us apart. It took down Marc with one bite, and for a while there I though he’d gone to meet his maker. It took a bite out of me too, and without some intervention from my guardian angel, I’d probably be spider food.

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Day 2 Damn you Silcorrrrr…

<translated>
Dear Diary;

I haven’t been writing lately because of the sad events that had happened, the strange foreign white man was killed.

I should not write like this, I should explain:
We were back on the ranch continuing to do the duties the good Mr. Sutter set us on. The last few days we were rustling up cattle and doing our night watch. During our cattle rustling we came upon some tracks and eventually found a couple heads of dead cattle. I stated we had enough for the day, but the white men wanted to investigate the bodies as if their investigations would bring the cattle back.

During this investigation we found that the area was a nest of spider vermin. I told the white men to leave well enough alone and to let us ride out, but it is not enough for them to pillage the great Mother, but they must also destroy Her creatures as well. As Mr. Sutter hired me I was honor bound to assist them. We destroyed the vermin with ease and headed back with our cattle. During the evening we encountered a great quake of earth, I believe the Earth Mother was upset with what we had done, but nothing else occurred that night.

The next day we went out to do our duty and retrieve more cattle headed back by the river where we found the nest, it was this day that we saw it the great beast. DAMN YOU SILCOR, I believe the earth mother sent this creature to retrieve its children, but alas Silcor has tainted the beast and created this this monster, I know not what to call it, but it filled me with terror and was a tarantula spider, but it was so huge and monstrous it can only be called a TERRORRRRANCULA!

The great beast was unstoppable, my bullets bounced off its powerful hide and it mandibles tore the foreign man to shreds, sliced at the strange gambling man, and just kept going shot after shot. The strangest of the white men was able to continuously damage the beast eventually killing it, but alas one of our own was dead…or so we thought.

Day 3 Return to the river;
After the defeat of the beast, we were able to regroup, we found that in fact the foreign white man was not dead just unconscious, the strange white man had disappeared during the fight, the gambling man Joe was rambling to himself, he told us he was talking to the spirit of the foreigner, but how would the spirit have been set free if his shell still drew breath. We returned to the ranch to lick our wounds and speak to Luke and Mr. Sutter.

On the round to the ranch we were overrun by eight stranger, 6 normal men, a white man dressed in fancy wears as if that would impress anyone named Bart Felps, and an Indian who from his dress appeared to have fought for the Confederates. He spoke to Mr. Sutter with a serious lack of respect, once Mr. Sutter cocked his shotgun I drew, because if lead was going to fly this fancy dressed man would go first. Instead the rode off knowing their odds weren’t on their side.

It was after our meal Mr. Sutter addressed the group and stated we would be heading out soon, he seemed worried about the men who showed up today. Mr. Sutter asked us to escort Miss Morton to the town to get the last of the supplies, as this is his only family he wanted her safe. It gave me great pride to know that he puts his trust in me (us) to protect something so valuable.

The next day we rode to town, the strange gambler Joe was still off talking of Mark (the foreign white man) as if he were a spirit, and the way he ogled Miss Morton made me mad, so I took the liberty of riding with the girl to keep him away.

We got to town and Joe and I went in with Miss Morton to get the supplies, after some time Joe headed back outside, I stayed in the store with Miss Morton, but went to the door to find that “nicely” dressed man trying to call out some of the others of our group. As Rin is a girl and doesn’t seem to me to have the grit for such a thing I didn’t expect her to go up. The other strange white man wanted to fight him hand to hand, where did he think he was, this is the West and these things are handled with Iron.

Joe surprisingly took the challenge and so unnerved the man he drew first, and was shot dead right in the street like the dog he was. I have to say I was quite impressed with Joe’s skill and ability. It was here that we learned that this man and the man (Bayou Vermillion ) he worked for had been working with evil spirits to antagonize the spiders into attacking the cattle. I took Joe and Miss Morton for a drink and some beans while Rin and the other white man filled the wagon. We returned back without incident, spent the next 3 days loading up and then headed out on the trail.

It was 3 days out on the trail before we had another incident, Rin lost a couple cattle and spent a hour rustling them up, it was kind of amusing to watch. That evening we were attacked by a large group of what I believe to be to be Bayou Vermillion men, 6 on horseback scarred the cattle, 6 on horseback can for us, 6 walked in front of us, and I believe the Indian man was there as well.

It was a hard fight, the man with the dog was dropped like a sack of wheat, Joe was shaken so much he ran and hide in some trees, and Rin ran off with him. It was left to me to take on the 12 enemies alone with the dog, and some of Sutter’s men. I was able drop 5 of the men in front of us and 2 on horseback, before I was forced to get out of the way before I was trampled by the cattle.

I was ready to curse Silcor again because I was too far away to save the Dog man, but Joe finally getting some nerve teamed up with Rin who was hiding up in a tree to do the strangest thing. Joe through a rope to Rin, then ran over to the Dog man and tied it around him. Rin then must have drank one of her strange concoctions, because she jumped out of the tree onto the stampede and rode, I mean rode on of the steers pulling Dog man to safety. Once again Joe proves he has some grit and agility because he was able to scamper to safety.

With the enemies dispatched or running I knew we didn’t have a lot of time, the stamped would continue going and spread out all over if we didn’t do anything. I jumped on my horse and speed in front of the herd, turned my mount around and screamed out to the alpha bull, DAMN YOU SILCOR!!! The beast and all the ones trailing stopped inches from my very nose.

I write this as usual tired from a long day, we have lost one of Sutter’s men, but know we have done well, we have stopped this man Bayou Vermillion, and I have shown Silcor that while his curse my linger there is nothing that I CANNOT do.

Till tomorrow…

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Good News and Bad News

Dear Sam,

Good news first, Marc is a live again!

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad news. zombies, shaman, and a shaman who’s looking for a world of hurt. And I think I made a fool of myself in front the lovely Miss Morton.

But I haven’t told you about her yet, have I?

So last time I think I left off telling you about the really giant spider. Well it’s dead now, but not before it killed Marc.

As Rin was patching me back together though, Marc’s ghost came to me. He told me he wasn’t ready to pass over, and he’d come to help me finish the job we both signed on for. He also let me know that I was the only one who could hear or see him, probably on account of my arithmetic skills.

On our way back we found a group of strangers threatening Mr. Sutter. They were lead by a slick man named Bart Felps, and he seemed to imply that the was trouble coming if Sutter didn’t sell his herd on the cheap to a man named Bayou Vermillion. Of course Sutter refused.

The next day I headed into town to pick up some supplies with Rin, Clarissa, some guy with a dog, and also the Lovely Miss Morton. She’s Sutter’s niece and an angel to behold. And she seems right practical too. Not afraid to get her hands dirty and rope a few cattle, unlike a lot of those ladies back east. The ghost of Marc gave me some advice about what to say to her. The ghost of Marc sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but Miss Morton didn’t seem moved.

In town we were loading up some supplies that Mr. Sutter wanted, while we were in the store that dastardly Bart Felps showed up again. He challenged us to a duel, and since neither Rin nor that dog fella looked ready, I went ahead and accepted the challenge. It wen just like back Missouri, except there weren’t no Judge McMullen to mess things up.

After the fight Clarissa Black Raven, that Sioux woman I was telling you about. She bought me a drink and one for Miss Morton too. Now, it might have been the whiskey, but for the first time I realized just how comely Clarissa was. Or maybe is was on account of that shirt she was wearing that didn’t leave too much to the imagination.

Now you’re probably to young to understand this now Sam, but these women folk have got me all confused. I like Rin, but I think I maybe like her more like a sister. Miss Morton, now she is a fine young lass. Seeing Clarissa like that for the first time though. Well I don’t rightly know what I should do.

Anyway, a few days latter we headed out. A first there was nothing too bothersome. Just some trouble with cows getting off track. The ghost of Marc had some good ideas about coming back to life, and as sure as two and two make four, he came back good as new.

But tonight, while we were all gathered around the fire, we started hearing chanting and gunfire. Some folk on horses were spooking the cattle. We started firing and waking up some of Sutters other men. Then from the other side, the dead came walking. And not real shambling like proper dead folk aught, but walking fast and firing their pistols.

It was a terrible sight, but me and the gang cleared them out. Mostly me and Clarissa. On top of it all she’s real mean in a fight.

Our troubles weren’t over yet, because the cattle were stamping. I could’ve just saved myself licity split, but that feller with the dog was lying down on the ground, still breathing, but otherwise not moving. I couldn’t just leave him there to be trampled by the herd, and I wasn’t sure I could carry him, so I cam up with a plan. I roped him under the arms and tossed the other end of the rope to Rin (who had climbed a tree on account of the cattle). She pulled him up and landed herself on one the herd riding her to safety.

Now that the dust has settled it’s time to find the people behind the attack last night, and bring them to justice one way or another. And I recon I’ve got a good idea who it might have been, Mr. Bayou Vermillion

Let ma know how I’m doing. But leave out the parts about the shoots and dead walking, and the killing and, and the stampede (and never bother her with too much arithmetic). Also you probably don’t need to mention all I said about the womenfolk.

On second though just tell Ma I’m fine and give her my love.

With love for you too,

Joesph Williams.

P.S. Knight to C3.

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I…I…I don’t think I feel right

<translated>

I haven’t been able to speak about this, but forced myself to put down in words what has occurred, How far can these white devils go…

Of all the things I thought I could go through with my battle with Silcor, I could never imagine I would face something that has shattered my understanding of this world. I have been through a lot in my young life and never expected to accomplish as much as I have, especially with Silcor on my tail.

But I digress…

It was just another normal day on the cattle drive we had been making some good progress I believed and made it to the town of Purity, even with all the lost cattle Rin and the Dog man lost we were still able to make good time and got to spend the day in town.
We returned to camp played some cards, which was good made $10 of these bad gambling white men, and we were relaxing when we were attacked. Attacked by a HAND, how does a hand move on its own, how does a hand have the capability to choke someone to death, more importantly how do hand carry a grown man away.

We ended up chasing the hands back to town in hopes to retrieve one of the crew, when we got to town it was ghostly quite, no one to be found. We did catch glimpses of the wandering hands, but could not pinpoint where they were going. So, we ended up doing something that I felt in another life you should not do and split up the party. Rin, Joe, and I went to the bar/hotel, while Marc went off on his own to the doctor’s office, and the Dog man went to the barn.

We convinced the townsfolk to let us in so we could help; they were all huddled in the main room afraid of the hands wandering the town. We explained we would help and went to the second floor, once there we battle to of these monstrous creatures, how do you call wandering, flying, choking hand monstrous…it is just inhuman. Once we were done we were told by the townsfolk that the sheriff and his deputies headed to Doctor’s Sloric’s house up on the hill. About the time we were headed that was Marc and the Dog man had returned so we headed to the Doctor’s house in hopes of finding our friend.

In the front door of Doctor Sloric’s house were pools and pools of blood, but yet no bodies, we entered the home and had to decide whether to go upstairs or down, as with most evil things we figured going down into the basement was where most evil lurks. It was here that I witnessed something so profoundly disturbing…

In the basement of the house were the bodies of the sheriff and his deputies we presumed, because there chest cavities were ripped open and their innards removed, we found their parts around a corner stuffed into what we believed was Dorctor Sloric, who was laid out on the floor also with his chest ripped open. It was at this time that a horrendous wail was heard and a great beast attacked, calling out to stay away from his father. I call it a beast because what sort of man could this be.

A monstrous 8 foot-tall, hideously ugly creation was before us, the beast had translucent yellowish skin pulled so taut over the body that it barely disguised the workings of the arteries and muscles underneath, sewn arms and legs that did not seem to belong to just one person was before us.

The battle with the beast took some time, and through I fight I was shaken and wounded, but together we were able to destroy the beast with multiple shots to his bulbous head. No one was permanently wounded and in our search after we were able to find our missing hand, thankfully still alive.

But in the end how does a man come to create such a beast, what goes through his sick mind, the white man does so much to destroy this land, has no respect for the creatures around them, how I could have been surprised I don’t know, what I do know is that I will never be the same, and this time I can’t damn Silcor for his involvement.

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Why did it have to be snakes?
Joe

Dear Sam,

Sorry it’s taken so long to write. We’ve had some might strange events transpire, and I’m afraid I kind of lost track of time.

The night after I sent your last letter, we were attacked by… well hands. No bodies. No arms. Just hands. Naturally we followed them back to a spooky house where we fought some kind of monster like from that book Frankenstien. You know the one I had to sneak you because Ma said it was too scary.

Anyway we shot that monster in the head.

Then we got on the trail and crossed some kind of terrible desert. I don’t remember much about that.

Then we had snakes. Not just any snakes. River snakes. We were crossing a river, and all of a sudden I saw frothing water up ahead. I didn’t know it at first, but when I got closer I saw it was a swarm of snakes in the river. We got the cattle over the river, but we lost a good man in the process.

Some of the others heard some chanting, and we figured it might be our old friend Black Dog. We went scouting for him, but found nothing but an old campsite.

We continued on towards Roswell, when we saw some kind of light streaking across the sky. To make a long story short, it was a man with a rocket pack, but by the time we found him he was crashed an dead.

Then for some reason some rebs attacked us. I’m not sure why. Probably because they’re rebs. Of course we all got through it just fine.

As I write this I’m getting ready to head in to Roswell to figure out what’s going on.

Give my love to Ma,

Joseph Williams

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Letter from the trail

My dearest sister,

You will not be surprised to know that I am writing this letter from within the Disputed Territories — while I treasure my time in Purity and found it much more satisfying than the constant press of conspiracy I found in Dodge City, I could not have chosen a more unsuitable profession to make my living. Being a bookseller in a frontier town must be like being a priest in Hell — the residents are not only largely unable to make use of your services, but have the most damnable pride in doing so. Listening to them, one would think that literacy was some sort of character flaw!

Despite its remoteness, Purity had its mysteries, which is part of why I was drawn to the place. Yet while I was combing through the few dusty places in town trying to piece together its past, the old newspaper building where I’d set up my bookshop, for instance, a posse of cowboys rode into town and settled the town’s accounts in a more direct fashion by simply storming the old mansion on the hill and dispatching some sort of monstrosity they found there. That directness seemed refreshing to me, accustomed as I was to dealing with scheming businessmen, and so I threw the few books that might be worth something to one inclined to pay hard cash for a sheepskin into my rucksack and rode out to ask if I might join them on their cattle drive.

Bill Sutter, the owner of the cows and leader of the expedition, seems a fine man. He’s stern but fair, and backs his men if he feels they’re in the right. His trail boss, Luke Canton, asked me directly if I was afraid of hard work — I’m proud to say that I looked him straight in the eyes and replied that hard work didn’t bother me, only busy-work. Canton seemed puzzled by my reply, but Sutter spoke up in saying that he’d never known a cattle drive to have anything but important, if dull, tasks that needed doing, and that I had little to fear.

For the most part, the cowboys on this drive are what you’d expect; ‘salt of the earth’ types who work hard, gripe about the cooking (though Javier Ortega’s bean dishes are far better than anything I managed for myself in the time I spent in Purity), and plan to waste all their money in Denver on booze and women once they’re paid off. A few seem different somehow, and I’ll mention them as I tell you about my adventures.

Being from the East, few of the cowboys expected me to have the skills to contribute much to the drive — my smooth, businessman hands hadn’t tasted what they call ‘real work’, as evidenced by their many calluses and twisted finger joints. Yet on the first few days, I rode and drove cattle like I’d been born to it, and by the end of the first few days the rank and file had accepted me as one of their own.

Shortly after leaving Purity, near the New Mexico town of Roswell, we saw a shooting star fall from the sky. Canton sent out the same posse who’d ridden into Purity to check it out, then later sent me to track them down and remind them that Sutter had asked us not to get into trouble. By the time I found them, though, there was trouble aplenty — a patrol of Confederate soldiers from a nearby fort lay dead, though every man and woman in the posse swore up and down that they’d merely been defending themselves. It didn’t stop one of the men — Cadmus McShane, about which I’ll have more to say later — from picking through the dead men’s belongings like a vulture and proudly bearing away a cavalry saber belonging to the man who must have been the leader of the patrol. An Indian woman, Clarissa, insisted on dragging all the bodies to the nearby river and sending them downstream, in the hopes of buying us time to leave the area before the patrol was missed. The shooting star proved to have been a man in some sort of contraption, and another of the party (whose name I can never remember) took possession of that device just before we dumped the poor fellow’s body in the river.

We rode back to the camp and settled back in for the night, only to be awakened just before dawn by Canton, who showed us a high plume of dust that could only be a much larger patrol of armed soldiers. As the column grew closer, we could see Sutter at the head of it, riding along side the man who must have been the garrison commander. They arrived, and Sutter gave the OK to the Confederates to search the camp, during which the cavalry saber was found. McShane expertly deflected blame from himself by inventing a mysterious tall man with a limp on the spot, and when no one contradicted his story, the Confederates had no choice but to let us go on our way. Sutter was disappointed that the events stopped him from selling some of his cattle to the fort or the town; we’d lost a few cowboys on the trail already and would lose more, making the herd a harder and harder thing to command, but he refused to rebuke us.

We turned north, and rather than take a toll pass through the ‘Blood of Christ’ mountains, we hazarded a different pass that led within a few days of the legendary Black Mesa. Sister, I hadn’t had such nightmares since the worst of our days dealing with the railroads, and on the third day I awoke with such anxiety within me that I was hoping for something to kick or shoot so that I might gain some release. I should be more careful what I wish for, because that night we were ambushed by Indians — Cherokee, according to Clarissa. The Indians were preceded by a swarm of bats who blanketed the campfire where the posse was resting — I’d chosen to rest near an outcropping of boulders nearby, as the evening was still warm. It seems that this cattle drive had been dogged by an old Indian shaman named Black Dog for some time, and it was here that the damnable McShane raced off into the night. Whether out of cowardice or out of some misguided pride that told him he had to face off against the shaman alone, McShane’s actions seemed to me reckless and foolish. The man has all seven of the deadly sins wrapped about him like a cloak, and I refuse to trust him with a nickel much less my life.

I hope, sister, that you do not take my words about women being on the cattle drive as inspiration to join one yourself. I know you do not fear hard work, but sometimes even more terrible tasks must be attended to. The Indians were sent to murder us and disperse our cattle, and so we defended ourselves. I took careful aim at one, pulled the trigger of my pistol, and sent him to his maker — I’d never before killed a man in cold blood and though I know it may not be the last time I’m called upon to do so before we reach Denver, I pray I never have to do so again. But even worse was that the man I killed was seemingly immediately replaced by another brave, who let loose a shot that smashed into my guts like God’s own fist. I fell, and I do not know how I survived. I awoke with our ‘weird science’ lady bent over me, doing something to the wound, and I panicked and crawled away. I may regret that, as I can feel the bullet inside of me, and sometimes even have the irrational fear that it may be crawling around, looking for a more vital spot in which to nest. Perhaps I’ll find a surgeon in Denver to remove it, once the drive is over.

That’s all I have time to write for now. Please send back news. Though I left our family in disgust for what they feel they need to do to survive, I find I enjoy reading much more now that I have so little time for it, and hearing from you always lifts my spirits. Take care, and may God watch over you.

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Ambushed... again

Dear Sam,

Once again, we were ambushed.

I think last time we spoke, in complete self defense, my and my trail mates had just fought off some Rebs. Some of the others claimed some war booty, which almost got us in trouble when a whole battalion of Confederate soldiers rode down on us demanding to know what happened, and the located a confederate saber in the cook wagon. Now I’m not saying who put it there, but let’s just say it wasn’t Ortega, and it wasn’t me.

Somehow the unnamed perpetrator talked his way out of it, and by then Sutter was right eager to get out of town, as were the rest of us.

To save money on some kind of fancy toll, Sutter decided to take us through some demon infested country. That place gave me nightmares the kind of which I won’t speak of.

Then once again, we were ambushed. This time it was a bunch of Indians, and a swarm of bats. They weren’t from Clarissa’s tribe, so even though I tried to keep one alive for questioning, it wasn’t any use. We think this might be more of Mad Dog’s work again. If only there were some way to track him down.

Anyway, I gotta run. We’re about to head out on the trail again.

Give my love to Mom, and leave out all the important bits.

-Joey.

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Letter from Dog Leg

My dearest sister,

You always said great things were in store for me. I think you’d be pleased to hear that I’m now a marshall, the supreme law man in the small town of Dog Leg. But the story of how I took that responsibility is a strange one.

We came down from the foothills of the Colorado-New Mexico border, and enjoyed a long stretch of relatively easy travel. The timing couldn’t have been better for my wound, as light work and rest allowed me a surprisingly quick recovery, though the bullet, I think, is still somewhere lurking in my guts. Nevertheless, the pain of the wound had all but disappeared by the time we reached the Farley homestead. I’d been ‘riding drag’, following behind the herd to keep any strays and laggards from falling too far behind, but we stopped at the border of Farley land and Sutter went to talk with the landowner to get permission to drive the cattle through.

Farley and his brother met our boss at the gates of the farmstead, armed and none too friendly. A few of the hands I’d ridden with since Purity rode up to see what was going on, and I followed.

In my last letter, I mentioned Clarissa. She’s a Native woman, and fairly knowledgable about the ways of the tribes. But either the Disputed Territories has brought out some streak of resentment in her, or I never realized how impatient and fiery this woman is. When it became clear that Farley didn’t want to let us drive the cattle over his land, Clarissa flatly offered him money to change his mind, then aggressively bargained him down to a $35 offer. I blanched — I haven’t had that much folding-money in my pocket in some time — but Clarissa pulled out a wad of scrip as if she hadn’t any use in the world for it and handed it to Farley, and we were soon on our way. Farley also mentioned a few of the local evils, including a gang leader and would-be authority in the territory named Gault. More on him later.

A few days past the Farley place, we encountered some weird plant-life — a few of the cattle became tangled up in a strange unrooted weed and began acting very agitated. We eventually discovered that, if these weeds were able to feed on the blood of a living creature, they’d change into an odd tumbleweed-looking plant, but one with thorns and a voracious maw that could gnaw a man’s leg off. One tried a run at me while I was freeing one of the herd from the rootless weed, but my now-trusty Colt helped me finish it off without incident. I think us fortunate to have lost just one head of cattle to the odd creatures, which Rin (the weird-science lady whose name I couldn’t recall in my previous letter) dubbed ‘tumble-bleeds’.

It wasn’t long until, in the morning prior to the start of the day’s drive, Sutter came to Clarissa, McShane, Rin, “Spider”, and myself, and complimented us on our ability to get things done. He asked us to handle a new problem — he’d sent a couple of hands ahead to a town called Dog Leg to look for provisions and supplies, and the hands hadn’t yet returned. Sutter was concerned that something had happened to the men, so he asked us to investigate, letting us know that we could rendezvous at a nearby town called Exposition once our task was complete. We rode off, arriving in Dog Leg at nightfall.

We quickly found the hands’ horses in the livery stable, and after stabling our own mounts we convinced the stable hand to tell us what had happened — he said the hands had been arrested by the town marshall, but was reluctant to say more. The others began to make cruel sport of the poor fellow, and I’m ashamed to say now that I joined in at first, until he revealed that the marshall and his deputies were the hirelings of Gault, the gang leader we’d heard about earlier. The blackguard extorts the townsfolk, terrorizing them, and his men had been brutally effective in doing so. I’d considered asking a few more folk in town about this marshall, but Clarissa was insistent — we should handle the task immediately by going to the source, the marshall himself.

What the stable hand had called the marshall’s office was little more than a great warehouse, with the two men we’d been sent to find bound in chains. Rin and Spider had remained outside, hoping to find a way to free the prisoners by stealth, while Clarissa, McShane, and I went inside. McShane, damn his fool eyes, immediately launched into another of his wild tales, claiming to be the hands’ attorney and demanding to speak with them. The marshall, who didn’t seem taken in by this tale in the least, let McShane speak with the boys, whose story — unsurprisingly — didn’t match with that of the corrupt marshall. The lawman claimed that he’d arrested the boys after they’d ‘busted up’ some of the town, while the hands claimed that the deputies simply jumped them once they’d arrived in town. Personally I was more inclined to believe the hands anyway.

Then Clarissa’s temper flared and she drew and fired on the marshall! I’ll admit myself a bit concerned, though we knew that no federal power backed the marshall’s authority and he was but a thug in the hire of a bigger thug, he still represented the law. Nevertheless, the man brought out his shotgun and began blasting away at McShane. I drew my pistol and told one of the deputies to stay out of the fight, but he ignored me and drew his own weapon. I felled him with a single shot. I then aimed my weapon at the other deputy and repeated my demand for peace, but that man tried to take a shot at Clarissa, so I put him down as well. Though I took no pleasure in these mens’ deaths, I will admit to suffering a bit of pride at my newfound skill at gunplay. But guns are deadly tools, and this time it was McShane who took the worst of it. He survived, with the help of Rin’s weird concoctions, and he, of course, claimed the marshall’s shotgun as prize for his indifferent effort in freeing our boys. At least in this fight he made a reasonable distraction, keeping the bullets from finding my flesh.

When we left the marshall’s office, a crowd of townsfolk had gathered in the square, concerned at the sound of gunfire. When we told them that we’d defeated the corrupt minions of Gault, they became agitated, worried about what the brute would exact from them in punishment or tribute for the loss of his men. I’m not sure why or how, but something inside of me snapped at that moment, and I stood before the townspeople and gave a rambling speech about justice — I barely remember the words now, but I was quite persuasive, I think, since a few townsfolk actually applauded when I was done, despite their fear. I do not think they will fight Gault’s men, but I also don’t think they deserve to be oppressed for that choice.

By the time my speech was over, Clarissa had taken the marshall’s badge and pinned it to my work shirt. At that moment, I knew that we couldn’t leave Dog Leg to the mercy of Gault’s thugs and killers. We’ll be spending the night, to give the boys a chance to recover a bit from the beatings they took, but I think I may remain here come morning, if only to try to show the townsfolk what one man willing to stand for the right can accomplish. They think I’m crazy, I’m sure, and I can’t say myself that they’re wrong. I only hope nothing ill befalls the cattle drive before our return, assuming of course there is a return from what Gault will no doubt send against us.

Pray for me, sister.

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