Deadlands: Reloaded

Heartless Victory
An onward flight towards destiny

The massive auto-gyro, complete with mended basket and fixed up motor, takes to the skies. Your contract is paid up for a return flight to Salt lake City, although Carter McCormick seems happy enough to renegotiate – $100 per passenger should buy you passage anywhere in the Northern states.

The auto-gyro first heads West, avoiding a suspicious cloud of what could be more Devil Bats. This takes you away from the Devil’s Tower along what appears to be a newly built railroad track. It seems someone has been granted permission to build railroad track through the Sioux lands – or is doing so without permission, although previous attempts at that simply resulted in scalped workers or other unsubtle warnings from Sitting Bull’s men. Given the location of the track, it would most likely belong to Iron Dragon, the notorious Chinese pirates from the West Coast. Perhaps this ties in with the Chinese guard seen outside the Devil’s Tower ? In any case, this would give Iron dragon a clear advantage in the Great Rail Wars – all that would remain once linked through the Indian territories would be to build the final link South from the Iron Dragon cities onto the City of Lost Angels

The gyro turns off the track and back South towards Utah. The weather feels warm and fresh, and you are reminded that for the first time since your encounters back in Lost Angels you may have time to relax. Although the small matter of your failure to recover the Heart of Darkness for Darius Hellstromme could cause a few small hiccups. Not to mention the vanishing of four members of the Agency sent to accompany you to “collect the heart of darkness”. So much for relaxation. Hopefully there should be enough time to buy a few, fast horses…

During the flight, the wind blows at your clothes, and a couple of times Carter catches sight of the strange implant now welded onto Trixabelle‘s arm. He says very little, but the look he gives shows that despite familiarity with Weird Science’s finest inventions, such an alien attachment is still quite unsettling. Zachariah rests in the basket for once, having a badly shot gut to restore. Prayers are mumbled, but to no avail. It seems Stone’s bullets are beyond the powers of the blessed even. Instead, Annie Appleseed applies a simple bandage, and natural healing begins it’s slow measured cycle of recovery. A good measure of whiskey assists with the healing too, the last of Felix and Carter’s combined stash. This doesn’t stop Felix from asking two or three times later if anyone has seen his bottle – a forgetfulness oft seen with inebriation seeming a much greater cause for concern when still present sober. The streak of white hair, like the stripe in a birds plumage, setting him a little further away from what most folk would call “common, decent people”. Li Fu calmly meditates through all of these scenes; his Chi power served him well in the struggles against Stone, and he hopes it’s flow will be just as uninhibited when destiny truly calls for it.

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Dungeons & d'Rayguns

On top of the Devil’s Tower, Annie sat calmly, trying to bring some order to the scream of emotion she felt from the tower below. Admist the cries she felt from this great structure of nature being somehow violated she found a song, and feeling of pure energy that radiated from the heart of the structure. With these voices seperated, she realised that whatever was generating this music what was she had been seeking.

Meanwhile Li Fu stood guard, watching over the plains. The Chinese guards below had moved back towards there camp, clearly writing the posse off as dead or as good as after the Auto-Gyro crash-landed. However a few of them started to ride out to meet an approaching form. Two riders could be seen on the horizon, one a good distance ahead of the other. Annie and Li Fu made for the shaft, leaving the man from the agency to guard Carter McCormick over his repairs. As they reached the shaft, a blaze of pistol smoke rose from the lead rider, and the four Chinese guards fell from the saddle. A second later, the four pistol shots rang out clearly across the valley. “Stone” muttered Li Fu, and they made there way into the ahaft.

Inside the garden level, Annie was interested in the vegetation, much of it familiar, but some not, and all grown without natural sunlight ? Quite alien indeed. They moved there way towards the ramp down, Annie stopping to grab a yellow curved tubular fruit from a tree. As they descended the ramp they heard a loud siren – a warning ? An alarm ? – and broke into a run. The ramp passed an opening into a floor of corridors and doors, and it was at this point they saw the rest of the posse running past and towards a nearby room and so joined them.

As the groups swapped stories about what they had seen and the Agents quietly took notes, Zachariah confessed that he had not been able to call upon the spiritual aid he normally received due to the lie he told the agency; a sin in the eye of whatever entity provided his power. The Agents were clearly interested to know about this, and here it was revealed that Zachariah had the Heart of Darkness, and not Trixabelle who held a fake. Except Trixabelle then panicked as she could not locate her stone, and let slip that she had switched the stones a while back, so now Zachariah held the fake, and it seemed the real stone had been taken from her.

Footfalls, door movement and strange language came and went outside the room. Desperate to see what was happening, Annie focused on the strange fruit she held, and reached out into the mind of one of the lizard-folk gardeners. He was in a barracks level, with two groups of four lizard-folk guards fully equipped with sticks, guns and armour, all ready and active. Another lizard-folk wearing robes led the first group into the ramp whilst other common lizard-folk came running down, gesturing and look confused by the still resounding alarm.

The posse decided it was time to move – Stone was on his way, and despite their great need, no rest was going to be had. They ran out of the room towards the ramp down and met up with the guard patrol led by the robed figure. Annie called out for peace and transformed herself into a peace lily. This sparked some level of confusion in the lizard-folk which Felix tried to monopolise by claiming they he would do the same to them if they did not lower they weapons ! The robed figure was clearly shaken, and called out for the guards to “take them down, quickly”. The posse were amazed – they understood every word of this lizard-folk ! The same could not be said of the guards, who ignored further attempts of parlay or intimidation and drew batons which seemed to inject electrical charge into their victims. As the robed lizard-folk fled, Li Fu received a couple of nasty shocks from the guard’s sticks whilst Trixabelle and himself entered into martial combat with them, aided by the rest of the posse trying to use non-lethal methods to bring them down.

With Annie’s plant magic helping to slumber and entangle them (using the skin of the unknown “banana” fruit) the guards were eventually subdued. Taking the strange weapons (and in the case of Trixabelle, the armour) they group entered the ramp and headed down. The next level down was the barracks – not somewhere they wished to explore, so carried on down. The level after had one long corridor, with a few doors. Behind the first door they found what appeared to be a lab, with two robed lizard-folk tinkering with another strange device. The posse subdued these weaker lizard-folk with great ease, and took the time to look around the room. Two tables held various experiments, but amongst the piles of odd devices and mechanical scraps there were also body parts. Human body parts. Arms, legs and hands lay scattered around next to pipes, sheets of metal and strange glowing devices. Leaving the horror of this behind the group decided to continue to continue downwards.

The next level down was the last one the ramp would take the group to, and such was the one they felt was best to explore. It turned out to be somewhat of a maze, complete with traps and ambushes ! On several occasions, Felix jumped back from collapsing floors and pressure plates. Other times were not so lucky, with Zachariah and Trixabelle triggering a pit trap that has bore Felix’s weight without activation. This knocked out Zachariah, and it came to Annie’s healing skills to revive him enough to regain his footing, albeit with battered guts leaving him even weaker. At one point Felix was separated from the posse by a wall thumping down behind him, but they soon reunited near the entrance of the level. Finally a guard ambush jumped down behind Trixabelle who had wondered off, curious to explore more. They managed to knock out the young pirate girl, although the posse knocked out two of them quickly with stunsticks and more of Annie’s slumbering magic. The remaining two guards pulled out the guns and fired blasts of high powered energy, which Annie lept out the way of at last minute.

The overwhelming power of the guns and desperately weakened party were enough to persuade Ned that it might be time to cut down on the pacifistic behaviour. He counter drew the strange energy gun he had taken from the guards above and squeezed of two powerful bolts of energy back. The guards each took a blast square in the chest, and each exploded in a shower of blood and limbs. Further patrols could be heard around the floor, but with Felix taking point and a clearer idea of where the traps lay, the group avoided further encounter and found there way to the other side of the floor, where they came across another ramp down, this one covered with a large metal grill with a lever next to it to operate it’s opening and closing. The posse pulled the lever, the grate slid back, and they proceed inside.

The ramp led down again, this time not for a couple of dozen feet but much deeper, over a hundred feet down into the belly of the tower. It ended in another square room, which a side chamber, but this room was clearly unfinished. Three natural, jagged passages led off in every direction, and the air had a much less inhabited feel. The posse moved into one natural cavern, using the handtorch found in the devil bat nest to light the direction ahead clearly, and Zachariah’s lantern to keep the area around the posse illuminated. Entering a second cavern, the group found it was a dead end and soon, Felix realised, also a trap. He heard scurrying behind them in the previous cavern…

Ned shone the light around as Zachariah and Li Fu blasted raygun shots into the cavern behind. Each gun fired 6-7 shots of powerful energy into the cavern behind before fading out with a hiss. It seems ammo could be limited, even with high-tech guns. Ned drew his still charged gun and strode forward with the handtorch looped around his head to see what foes still awaited. Li Fu and Felix followed close behind, Zachariah keeping his lantern high at the rear with Annie and Trixabelle. They moved into the previous cavern, a sound of chittering hitting the air. Ned caught a movement on the wall to his left, and shone the torch up on two black chitinous forms with red markings. These dog-like insect creatures skittered a little to try and stay hidden, and upon being revealed unfurled to reveal sharp claws, a long pointed tail, and an elongated insectile head with narrow eyes and large sharp teeth. They hissed, the sound being joined by other such creatures in the room, and one threw itself from the wall towards Ned, who similarly raised the gun to meet it’s trajectory…

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The only way is down

A burst from one of the agents winged a sleeping devil bat, which awoke and carried the agent to the edge of the Devil’s Tower. Trixabelle was fast to lasso the bats legs and with Felix’s help dragged it on the Plateau, where the posse use blade and bullet to subdue it. Ned almost became a victim of the bat’s grabbing claws, but managed to roll free of it’s grasp and wound the creature, a hail of bullets from another agent causing Ned to stumble backwards as the gatling rounds tore apart the wings and life of the final Devil bat.

Carter McCormick crawled from under the flipped auto-gyro, and mumbled about needing to perform a couple of minor adjustments to the flipped and damaged machine. Meanwhile the posse and agents searched the plateau, starting with the Devil Bat’s nest. Avoiding the two young bats, which flew out and away after a quick swipe of their claws, the posse pushed around the bones (rabbit, deer and a few human) to find a couple of strange devices. The first was a semi-spherical device that upon being squeezed acted as a light, without any exhaust fumes or familiar smell of Ghost rock ?!

Another device lay next to a strange, lizard-like humanoid skeleton, which Zachariah refered to as “alien”. The device was a claw-like glove with a long metal cable attached. When tried on by Trixabelle, it came to life, the cable winding up her arm and the end opening up sharp needles as if to bury itself into her shoulder ! Felix and Ned sprung forward and helped her wrestle the device down, which fell into inertness upon being removed. Trixabelle stowed it for all of 10 mins before curiosity struck again, and outside of the nest she put the device on again, allowing it to burrow into her shoulder.

Crying out in pain, the Chinese girl dropped to her knees in sheer agony. As the posse and agents came running, she arched forward and all could see the cable pushing it’s way into her back on towards her spinal column. As blood flowed gently from the wound, a moment of mercy permitted Trixabelle to pass out from the shock. Minutes later, she came around, sore and weak, but with surprisingly little blood loss from such an invasive assault. She looked down at the claw attached to her much strengthened arm and thought if the jutting out blades would be permanently attached. As this thought came, the blades retracted. Upset at their disappearance, she frowned, and the blades shot back out again. They seemed to react to her whims. The posse and agents all stood in wonder; and one step further away than normal. Whilst this arm offered strength and utility, it would bring stigma to many folk – many of the posse recalling the cybernetically altered pit fighters from The City O’ Gloom and the reactions they got from regular folk.

As they stood in quiet wonderment at this gadget, Felix’s attention was drawn to bushes shaking in the wind… yet shaking as if the breeze was below them. Investigation revealed a long shaft which Felix volunteered to explore, along with the newly found handtorch. Lowered down by rope, he stopped 50 feet down to investigate a small ledge which contained a small flight of mantabats. Scared from Felix’s light, they flew up and down the shaft, stinging Trixabelle on the way out, the venom weakening her further. After this, the posse’s way was clear to the bottom of the shaft, and a large metal grate that covered the bottom.

Felix and Trixabelle heaved the grate up, but it’s weight was too much and they dropped it, hitting the floor with a loud clang. They quickly jumped down into a large cavern lit by electric lights, within which grew trees and gardens of many fruits and vegetables, most familiar to the posse, all seemingly grown indoors in this humid and well lit climate. Tending these crops were the gardeners, equipped with basic tools and sprays. It was not the equipment that first caught the posse’s attention though. It was that the gardeners were 4 1/2 foot tall humanoid lizard people.

Attempts to communicate failed, and the lizard creatures fled chittering in a strange language. the posse skirted around the garden produce, both familiar and foreign and explored more carefully rather than follow the fleeing gardeners. In a storeroom they found another one of the creatures, now dubbed as “aliens” by Zachariah, this time a child who snarled in fear before running past the posse down a ramp.

With few other directions to explore, the posse took this ramp too, making there way slowly down around 100 feet further into the devil’s tower structure. Here, the tunnel opened up into a floor of doors and corridors, whilst also continuing deeper. The posse crept around this floor – seeming somewhat quiet on one side. The other side saw larger doors and noisier rooms. Noise of crowds chattering, large groups working and silent study came from the larger rooms. Exploring a smaller room yeilded a small living quarter – a simple animal hide pallet without blanket (the whole structure was a constant cool temperature) and pegs on the wall were all that furnished the room. The walls though were covered with strange hieroglyphics; writing that started large across all the walls, but grew somewhat smaller as it came toward the floor, where it stopped a couple of feet short.

The party decided to move on, rather than explore too far, for they were injured and could not afford to let curiosity get the best of them. However, it seemed the fleeing “alien” gardeners may have taken news of the posse’s arrival deeper into the tower, for a long wailing siren started up and started to drone around the whole floor, perhaps the whole tower. Noises of doors being flung open started around the corner, and the floor seemed suddenly a buzz with activity and apprehension…

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Agents of destiny
Taking the heart to the Devil's tower

The posse decided to try and double-back, hoping the wallet was responsible for Stone tracking them with such inhuman speed and efficiency. There question may have been somewhat answered as someway away from the site they had encountered the outlaws, Felix (who was scouting ahead) heard two clear, unhurried shots, and two bodies falling to the ground. He snuck back to the posse who took a detour away from the killing area.

They rode back into Denver, and split up. Zachariah took the stolen horses back, claiming them to be from outlaws he had encountered in the mountains, feeling a wrathful scorn of what powers watched over him as his tongue pulled him away from blame. He then went off with Trixabelle to can on friends whilst the rest looked for a Smith and Robards store for replenishment (with no success) and for Carter McCormick to pilot them out of there, who turned out to be easy for Felix to find – birds of a feather certainly flocking together here towards one of the few bars still open to the dawn chorus hours.

Regrouping at the Auto-gyro, Felix put his “gift” with machinery to use, and gave the small Autogyro used by Stone a once over, disabling the core energy couplings in doing so. Next four well-dressed men arrived – agency men who seemed to know much of the posse’s purpose. This was explained when Zachariah arrived back and revealed he had called them in to assist with the mission. Parting with several hundred dollars, Carter took the party up and out – and just in time as a dark figure rode over the horizon and glared at them from afar, his trademark colt’s having little chance to reach the autogyro passengers now they were several hundred feet above the ground.

The flew North for several hours; destination – the Devil’s tower. The men from the Agency asked and answered questions, wanting to confirm who had the Stone, Trixabelle obliging them a glimpse of the fake they had pulled from Hellstromme’s mansion. Mid-afternoon, the flying machine rode into Sioux territory, one indian patrol casting a curious distrustful eye at them as they flew past. Soon they were flying over the Belle Force river, into view of the Devil’s Tower. A green glow within a mass of prairie dog mounds drew the gyro down, Felix leaping out to grab the gizmo producing the strange glow. It lay within freshly gnawed bones from a large animal, a hint toward what came next as the prairie dogs turned out to be mutated, with piranha like teeth and extra sharp claws. They dove forward, one latching itself onto Felix’s leg as he clung onto the rope with his other hand. The gyro lurched up, and the posse hauled up the rope Felix was holding, whilst the piranha dog scratched and bit at him. Stowing the gizmo in his duster, he quickly reached backwards and grabbed the soft neck of the creature, tossing it sideways were it fell into the 30-40 other mutant prairie dogs that have gathered below looking for more meat, and the gyro pulled up high.

Meanwhile, it’s presence has bought out a small guard of Iron dragon riflemen, who were taking pot shots at the gyro despite it’s long range. The group decided to keep rising and investigate the top, despite spying a couple of wrecked gyros at the base of the tower as they rose. As the gyro came into view of the top, a flock of large devil bats sprung forward, slashing at the ropes with claws. The posse fast shot down the first wave, but a second wave followed in close succession, this time severing two of the ropes holding the basket aloft. Before they could remove a dangerous third rope, a cry came from Carter, who had taken a long claw mark across his chest. Clutching at the blood pouring forth, he lost control of the gyro, which lurched forward and nose dived into the top of the Devil’s tower. Agents and posse alike rolled clear as the mechanism folded at the front, the propellers looking to become deadly blades for all who could not dive clear. One agent was struck firmly in the chest, the force knocking him backwards over the edge of the tower and 300 feet down. The devil’s tower had taken it’s first victim. The large bats regrouped to swoop down on the dazed posse below…

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Between the Rockies and a Hard face
Things to do in Denver when your almost dead...

The auto-gyro started up, Carter McCormick taking the wheel, joined by Zachariah in the seats above, the rest of the posse taking shelter in the basket below. Just before they took off, they were surprised to see Jackie Wells running in, beaten balck and blue with tattered clothes and no gun. She explained she was fleeing Stone, and knew this is where the group would have headed, pleading with the group for a firearm to fend him off.

The gyro took to the air, no sign of persuit, and Jackie relaxed and turned to face the posse, confirming who had the heart (Zachariah) and that the group were still headed to the Devil’s Tower. As she asked, Annie entered into a trance and holding the pistol stone once held tried to enter into his mind. The gun gave off just enough energy to allow her to connect with his mind, and soon she was looking out of his eyes… and into her own face.

Jackie snarled, and her face melted away to reveal her as none other than Stone. Ned drew and fired into Stone’s shoulder, but the undead gunslinger shrugged off the bullet and lept up to the cockpit, diving forward to grasp at Zachariah. At that very moment, either the whiskey took effect or his piloting was living up to it’s boasts, but Carter pulled the Gyro to one side and Stone went flying over the side, landing below with a crunch.

The autogyro flew on as fast as possible away from that scene and turned towards Denver, Zachariah hoping to find time to rest and plan there next move there. An uneventful trip across the Utah salt flats and Rocky mountains saw the party land next to Denver by the evening, Carter leaving the group to get rest and relaxation “McCormick” style, which seemed to consist of whiskey and wenches.

Zachariah was keen to get to the Agency, to see what assistance they might be, but until they opened, the posse first had to rest. The posse shared rooms, except for Li Fu who seemed to opt for a hammer and nails as his bedfellows, securing the room from… everything. Annie left them to camp near the edge of town, needing to spend some time it close ritual with the nature spirits to reconnect, seeking their guidance on what the grouop should do next with the Heart of Darkness, which they had long led her to seek out. She regained her closeness to the hunting grounds, but also found someone else a lot closer, as soft boot padding awoke her.

Stone’s gun clicked as he pointed it toward the sneaking Shaman who was trying to outflank him. A round left the chamber and smashed into her leg, leaving her prone and badly bleeding. “Hey Darlin’. Now tell me where the heart is. I’d hate to waste more ammo on your other soft, brittle leg” Stone’s hoarse voice intoned, pulling back the hammer for another shot. Annie cried that she didn’t have it, but knew the posse intended to take it to the Pilkerton’s the next day. This bought her enough time to get to her feet.

“Why thanks you, but if you don’t have it, then it seems I gotta waste another good bullet” Stone said grimly, breaking a half-smile. Annie closed her eyes in prayer, but not to any divinity, but to nature and the prairie grass around them, which rose and crawled all over Stone’s body in an instant, holding him long enough for Annie to make her getaway. She limped through town and into the Saloon, reaching the rest of the posse just in time to realise she’d been setup. Stone could have outran a limping target, but instead used her to find the heart itself.

A scattergun shot from the hotel owner, convinced as to the evil intent of the approaching man by Annie slowed Stone down, but it was a shot that the man paid for with this life. This bought enough time for the posse to break out the Saloon, Li Fu’s staggering form leading Stone after them. Busting into a livery, the group grabbed four horses, Zachariah throwing down sufficient money to cover there cost. Stone followed behind, taking a little longer to calm a horse against his unnatural presence. He left no money behind for his equine acquisition.

The group rode hard, heading back West into the Rocky mountains. They saw Stone in the valley below, riding after them, sniffing the air and turning toward there trail. Somehow he was still tracking them, but how ? And how was he always getting drawn to Annie ? A solemn thought crossed her mind that maybe she should ride away separately, as whilst she was near the gem, she was endangering it. The posse discussed a plan of splitting up the horses, Annie drawing his on a long chase whilst they looped back to Denver, when a nearby voice suggested a new plan – your money and guns or your life.

Ten outlaws sprung from the nearby rocks, pistols and rifles aimed at the group. The posse dismounted and tried to plead that behind them came a greater danger, but the outlaws laughed and cocked pistols. Just then, some small rocks slid and fell on one side of the valley – unseen by most. Had Stone already caught up with them ? Zachariah, oblivious to this, felt for his pouch of golden dollars – without them he could survive, but to lose his guns would guarantee his death. He had still not recovered from the gunshot wounds he’d sustained on the train with Stone, and was in no shape to fight. Nor was Annie, who was still hurting from her leg wound. However Annie had no guns, so keen to survive this one encounter too many, reached to throw over her wallet… and grasped the neat stitching on the edge of Stone’s wallet, still in her pouch.

A hope came over her that this possession of Stone’s could be why he always came for her. Perhaps Stone had no link to her, but simply to his wallet ?! She threw the item over with a hopeful heart. But the rest of the posse had no interest in disarming themselves and dashed for cover or the nearest man to punch in Li Fu’s case. The numbers did not look good, but these greenhorns might still fall to the posse experienced hands. Li Fu struggled to summon forth Chi energy, but finally in came and gave him the protection to run along one valley side, striking the pistoleros with shaolin strikes. Ned took to his rifle, and after three bad shots finally had some luck when a stray bullet from the outlaws gunned down his target for him. Zachariah meanwhile dived prone behind a rock, and fired shotgun rounds and then pistol shots at the foes surrounding him, but failed to take anyone down initially. With Annie taking cover behind a rock to nurse her wounds, things looked bad for the posse, although none had et sustained a hit from the novice gunslingers.

Just then the sliding rocks from earlier became more numerous, and two of the outlaws on the opposite valley side fell down, one choking, the other screaming “TICKS !”. Over a half-dozen Prairie Ticks came burrowing out of the soil and lept down the side, looking to hook open the mouths of there victims and to crawl within, to lay their deadly eggs.

The gun battle dissolved into a panic for survival, as the gunslingers ran for the unattended horses, the posse following close behind. Annie grabbed a mount first, followed close by Li Fu. Ned had to gun down the man on his mount before riding to catch them all up. Zachariah could not move as fast, and the lead outlaw quickly leapt for his mount, falling when a pistol shot from Zachariah grazed the inexperienced horseman.

Zachariah, now at the back of the group, mounted up, but the ticks had closed in fast, having already overwhelmed 3-4 of the outlaws in between them. Seeing the lead outlaw back on his feet, gun drawn, Zachariah called for him to get on the horse and he’d get them both away from the abominable ticks, unsure of whether he truly meant it. The outlaw believed these charmed words though and lept aboard the horse, shooting back at the trio of approaching ticks.

One tick lept, grazing the side of Zachariah’s boot, another tried to jump closer but was crushed under the horse’s hoof. The last came close to the outlaws face though, slicing into his neck with it’s small but deadly sharp claws. The cut was deep and deadly accurate, slashing the jugular and spraying a fountain of blood out as the tick burrowed it’s way into the windpipe, the slack body of the mercifully dead outlaw falling from Zachariah’s mount as he rode into the distance.

A final rifle round almost unmounted Ned as it sliced off his horses flank, but thankfully the brief times he’d spent in the saddle allowed him to cling onto the rearing mount and continue to ride away with the rest of the posse, leaving two stranded outlaws to shoot down the remaining few ticks. They surmised the battle had gone well for the remaining duo, as the shots became less frantic and soon were individual bangs every minute – mercy shots to the poor hosts who would soon give birth to more ticks, a procedure that would be far more traumatic and painful, and certainly just as deadly as a single bullet to skull.

Annie hoped the wallet she had thrown the outlaws was indeed to totem that had drawn Stone to her, and that tonight the final duo of outlaws would realise there survival was only a temporary reprieve. And that the posse might finally have some chance of losing Stone for a little while, at least long enough to recuperate energies or gather thoughts on where to head next…

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The Heart Returneth
Deadly encounters bring the heart back to the posses hands, but where to take it next

At the Standish Cooperative in Wilson, Zachariah secured passage for seven people in their customised auto-gyro with sicker basket attachment to fly to Salt Lake City. Jackie Wells suggested that they should look to intercept the train that Stone was riding, as one he reached Salt Lake City, he could use his disguise power to easily blend with the crowds. Zachariah dragged half the posse away from the warm bath, some of the posse needed to soak off their saddle soreness, and soon the gyro was airborne.

It only took a small cash bribe with a whiskey kicker to persuade the pilot, Carter McCormick, to fly the custom auto-gyro over the train. Stone shouted out about train-robbers and soon the bullets were flying from the train at the gyro. Carter gave the gyro a sharp spin sideways and was soon hovering over the lead passenger car, at too sharp an angle to draw fire.

Zachariah was first down to the train, and moved quickly to disconnect the locomotive. He took some bullet fire from the still worried crowd, and then shouted back that they were here to apprehend a dangerous criminal. Eyes turned to Stone’s cold gaze, and the crowd slunk down in their seats, staying out of this conflict. Zachariah and Felix burst into opposite sides of the carriage and were soon joined by Jackie and Ned. Stone crouched in the middle, firing his colt pistols in both directions and scoring some painful hits whilst shrugging off most damage he himself received. Carter bought the wicker basket of the gyro low, and Annie tried her slumber magic, succeeded in only putting two nearby passengers to sleep.

Stone pulled up one of the unconscious passengers as a hostage, giving the posse a little time to call on arcane assistance. Without missing a beat, Jackie aimed and shot a blast of auto-fire through the hostage’s arm and into Stone’s chest, but this did little than push him down into his seat. Before he could stand, Annie threw out fronds of plants into the train car and they wrapped him tight into place. The posse took the advantage, and Zachariah sprinted forward to grab Stone’s saddlebags hurling them out of the slowing car, which Trixabelle tumbled from to grab from the dusty ground.

A call to retreat was called as Stone took on Ghost form to walk casually up to the posse. Jackie stood there, her gun trained on the ethereal form, as the posse made for the roof to jump into the wicker basket of the auto-gyro. Stone laughed turned and ran for the side of the train, looking at ghost through the wall and into the basket. His smile turned to open surprise as Jackie fired off a burst, which still hit his translucent form and blew his sideways through the carriage wall onto the ground outside. The posse bundled into the basket and pulled the Gyro up, Jackie making a leap for the trailing rope, Stone grabbing the very end to trail them. As Stone moved to draw again, Jackie quickly pushed back her arm and fired another burst, blasting him back to the ground and leaving the posse home free. Inside the basket, Annie took Stone’s wallet, complete with $500 of cash, and Zachariah removed the artefact – the Heart of Darkness – the mere presence of which filled Trixabelle with renewed vigour and energy.

They flew through the rest of the day to reach the City o’ Gloom by the evening – the train locomotive having been long delayed in gathering law enforcement before returning to collect the train cars. Sure that Stone could not reach them that evening, they finally looked to rest the night in an anonymous hotel on the edge of the Junkyard, having not properly slept in 36 hours. Jackie demanded to hold onto the Heart of Darkness, concerned the posse might not honour the agreement to help take it to the future, and ensure mankind’s survival in the war to come. However Zachariah did not agree, leaving an uneasy stand-off between them.

The nights rest was not without incident. Just before dawn broke, Annie and Li Fu were woken to the clicks of colt pistols being cocked at their foreheads. Stone bore over them and asked where the Heart was. Li fu attempted to bluff, sending Stone to Trixabelle and the fake stone, but the cold harrowed gun slinger saw through his lies. However, he seemed to sense the heart was not in the room, and wasted no more time with the pair, slamming each hard with pistol butts before ghosting through the wall into Jackie’s room. Li fu pulled his gun and fired once into the ceiling – an alarm shot that sent Zachariah and Trixabelle rushing for the window, followed closely by Ned once Felix had taken time to wake the deep sleeper.

Felix, Annie and Li Fu met in the hotel corridor to see Jackie fly through both doors, blasting rounds of gunfire back towards her recently vacated room. She gazed briefly at the posse’s flight as she slammed past them and then all that were heard were the exchange of several more gunshots, both automatic and double-tapped. Talking the owner out of intervening, the groups met again outside the hotel and moved swiftly away to the Standish cooperative in Salt Lake City, waking the owner and waving large amounts of cash to persuade them to fire up the autogyro and fly away with dawn’s first light.

The only question was; where to go next ? Ned was looking to use the Heart to buy him an audience with Hellstromme, keen to payback a vendetta. Zachariah favoured keeping the gem away from Stone, and suggested moving to Denver would keep them in good position to get to the Devil’s Tower or Deadwood still, without staying in Utah. There was even talk to taking the stone back to Grimme, for safekeeping in The Rock, or simply hurling the Heart into the ocean or a thermal vent, to lose or destroy it forever. The posse argued this all away from Annie, now believed to be a conduit through which Stone had spied on them, in the same manner which her powers enabled her to see through the eyes of the recently encountered.

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Future revelations

The posse took rest in Ghosttown, a shanty town of the poor wretches unable to afford to live in Lost Angels. Whilst planning to head East, in search of the Heart as guided by Annie‘s spirits, or North, to continue the search for Trixabelle’s Grandfather, last seen a few months ago boarding a prospecting ship, the gropu were interrupted by a tall, female figure with cropped hair, men’s clothing and a fancy looking gun.

She introduced herself as Jackie Wells and explained she had come from the future, through the hunting grounds, to chase down Stone and the Heart of Darkness. She explained that there were beings called the Reckoners, otherwise known as the four horsemen of the apocolypse, who were waging a war with mankind to plunge the world into fear. They did this by raising the fear in areas until they became known as a deadland. She also added that the Reckoners had won – in her time, 2094, the world was Hell on Earth, with only a small resistance force fighting against the horrors and manitous that now walked the Eart freely.

She explained what Stone intended to do with the Heart of Darkness, which was to ghost rock what diamond is to coal. All it’s compressed power could turn an area into a deadland in the right hands – Stone’s hands. She also knew where he intended to do it – devil’s tower. This large stone feature in the Sioux Terriories is where the resistance had there base – for the structure was hollow, and inside it lay a portal to the hunting grounds, the portal she had used to travel back here in time. By turning this into a deadland before the resistance ever found it, Stone could effectively win the war and bring on The Reckoning even sooner.

The posse relunctantly took her word as true, and soon the posse were riding horseback East – persuing Stone by the most likely route he would have taken; it would be a solitary route, but as quick a one as possible. This led them up to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, past a group of union soldiers on patrol and into the Nevada desert. At the edge of the desert / mountain boarder lay the mining town of Tanglefoot, where the locals in the bar confirmed a lone rider coming through only a day previous. He drank a good amount of whiskey, kept himself to himself, and left early at dawn. He also had the most fearful eyes, enough to dissuade any attempt at befriending the lone cowpoke.

Pushing East into the desert, Felix spied some tumbleweeds moving in the wrong direction, almost perpendicular to the wind. Annie also noted there close grouping – tumbleweeds were a lonesome plant, certainly not known to travel in groups of 5 ! As the balls raced at the party, thorns and hungry mouths appeared, attempting to snare the posse and drain their blood. Whilst tough to strike, the group kept the thorns at bay, only Ned taking any damage at all (a few scratches). Shotgun and hard kicks proved the weapons of choice at the end of the day, and left the malevolent tumbleweed’s scattered.

The group pressed on, into a forced march through the night. Bypassing what appeared to be dead bodies in the night, the posse felt watched, Felix hearing a steadily growing number of horses in the distance. By dawn, rejuvenated by Zachariah’s words, the posse saw a small pack of indian riders staring at the group as they crossed the border into Utah – they had been observed, but not assaulted. Pressing on, the group reached the railhead town of Wilson, a town offering services of a city 10 times it’s size, due to it’s enviable position as main rail station for access into the Southwest. The train station alas confirmed that a train had left that very morning, with a man of piercing gaze and fearful bearing onboard. The next train would not be for three days time.

The posse felt tired, saddle sore and exhausted. They had been so close ! Some looked for bath houses or beds to perhaps get a few hours rest, Ned surpassing endurance limits that even he was unaware of to stay awake, but Zachariah pushed on to explore the town, and discovered a mad scientist collective that claimed to offered transport even faster than even the iron horse itself ! Intrigued, he ventured in…

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Another Stone
Showdown at the Cathedral of Lost Angels leaves a bittersweet victory and defeat

The posse pulled guns as the demon hordes closed in on them. Bullets and fists rained down on the gibbering hordes, who returned with bites and flaming breath. Soon Zachariah was trapped in the middle, just avoiding being fully outflanked by Li Fu’s shaolin skills and a hail of bullets from a member of the agency caught in the melee.

On the far flank, Ned kept several demons at bay, diving aside from their attacks and trying to put rifles bullets through there think scaled hides to put them down for good. Preventing the posse from being fully overwhelmed, Annie summoned clouds of spores and pollen which made the devilish horde sluggish and caused some of the minor demons to fall into a slumber.

Two larger demons strode in, one quickly falling to Trixabelle’s stones fly from hands power – a display to mystical power that would lead to the crowd muttering words like witch and devil child afterwards, serving to remind the posse that most god-fearing folk see many of their supernatural powers as being just as devilish as the demonic foes they faced.

The second larger demon spewed clouds of flame across the crowd and the posse, many dodging to one side at the last minute. It came in close to claw at Annie, who prompted took on the form of tumbleweed and let the winds through the shattered cathedral window blow her to safety. The demon turned to kill Trixabelle before she could use her stone bolts on any of his kin, but was blown backwards by an accurate and deadly shot from Ned’s rifle.

As the demonic numbers grew less, the demon lord at the front, still locked in a battle with Grimme, called out in pain and uttered that this instrument of the lord was too strong, and that they must make efforts to flee. The demon flew from the window, the rest of the demons dissolving to black muck as Grimme cried triumphant for the victory was ours !

As the Guardian Angels set about work of tending to the wounded, terrified and dying, Stone and the posse eyed up the podium – the Heart of Darkness was missing. Stone pulled down his hat and made his way from the church, not wishing to attract the attention of the Reverend and his men. The posse followed and headed towards the rendezvous point, accompanied by the agent who had assisted them in the fight inside, one Betsy Sullivan.

Reaching the warehouse, they pushed there way inside, and found it full of crates. Making there way in to the back wall, they found Old Pete waiting by a table, with the Heart. Immediately Stone pushed his way forward, drew pistols and pointed one at Pete and the other at the posse, claiming he would take the stone now. As he did so, his face peeled away to reveal gaunt, sallow features and pale, decayed flesh. “But first, how do you know so much about me” he demanded from Old Pete, who replied by flinging his mask off and revealing the same gaunt, sallow face. They were practically identical now.

“Lets just say I am you and you are me, and we’ve got a lot to discuss” replied Old Pete, picking up the stone, and signalling toward the back wall. The posse protested, Li FU leaping forward first, but with lightening speed and deadly accuracy Pete had drawn and put a bullet through his leg and the bone, leaving him prone and badly wounded. Trixabelle felt a warm glow from being near the stone – all the scrapes and tears from the demons felt as if they had never happened. She took this chance to summon the last of her stone showers, but again without being able to do any more than move a matter of inches, Stone had placed a bullet in her shoulder which sent her spinning backwards.

Laughing at the posses attempts to talk them down, and shrugging off a bluff that they had the wrong gen as “something they’d better hope was not true, because that means we’ll be back”, the pair stepped towards the back wall and ghost walked through it. Annie cast out her mind and entered the head of “Old Pete” seeing the world through his eyes. She saw the gun-slinging duo had walked into a trap, surrounded by 12 agents who waited outside the building. Then the world went into a whirl, as the two forms dived, firing round after deadly round into the agents, most shots penetrating between the eyes. In seconds, all the agents lay dead, only a few rounds fired from their gatling pistols. Neither had even needed to reload.

Old Pete then laughed and pushed Annie out of his mind, in time for her to return to the warehouse to see walking dead crash out of the crates and into the warehouse. The badly injured posse fled, into a patrol of Guardian Angels. They had come on a mission of mercy, being guided by the lord that the posse would uncover more evil (as they had) and proceeded to mow down the undead forces with there remmington shotguns. They then invited the posse to accompany them to the Cathedral, where the posse feasted on the foods offered, received thanks for there help, and giving Zachariah the chance to speak a few words to calm the troubled souls of Lost Angels, and even a little time to chat with the Reverend himself.

The Reverend told Zachariah of his need to destroy the evil gem in the ceremony of holy worship, and that was the fate of the dark stone. He also implored the group that they should look out for Stone, the one who was trying to use the gem for evil before the Reverend had rescued it from him, and that he was a very dangerous and wicked man indeed.

Zachariah carefully considered his next action, and on the mental toss of a coin, let his hand slide away from the shotgun butt and let the Reverend leave after accepting a blessing that rejuvenated his body. Offering similar prayers to his companions though left him tired – perhaps the holy powers within Lost Angels had been exhausted for one day ? The posse returned to their rooms, the more injured (Li Fu) taking medical comfort from less mystical avenues, and calling for a local doctor to tend to his shot leg.

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Deeper into the Rock
The posse heads into the underbelly of the Rock, Reverend Grimme's key in hand...

Upon returning to the cells, Annie starts to feel faint from malnutrition and collapses from exhaustion – she is badly short on energy and the party is carrying nothing to rectify this. Li Fu, already injured from the attack on the roof, suggests he stays with her, whilst she rests again in a nearby storage room. This way, they can lay an ambush should anyone come looking for the missing guards, and give Annie chance to recuperate from her trials.

The rest of the posse moved to go deeper into the rock, but then heard muffled cries of pain from around the corner. Investigating, they found Felix shackled to the wall of an interrogation chamber straight out of medieval times, with a man of 4 foot height and width holding a red hot poker. This hardy torturer took a great beating before showing weakness, and came close to crushing Trixabelle’s head on a few occasions, but finally the posse took him down, shackled him up, and bought Felix back to conciousness.

Felix recalled a blurred arrest around the Lost Angels saloons, and then being captured for slurring something about the heart of darkness. He recalled his guns being kept in nearby storage room, and grabbing those the posse headed into the sub basement.

This sub basement spoke of a very dark side to the rock. Council chambers and luxury rooms hinted at high ranking members of the cult coming here, and an encounter with an undead female gunslinger added to the dark mystery. But it was accessing Grimme‘s inner sanctum, past a blood stained alter, entered using the warden’s key that led to grisly sights of a chamber full of human bones with an adjoining chamber decorated on the walls and with sculptures all formed of more human bones that filled many of the posse with horror, young Trixabelle being most affected by such sights.

Finally the posse reached a laboratory, in which they found the corpse of an emaciated man dissected on a table, with notes marking him as a creature of occult origin called a Faminite. The lab had 4 cells, inside which the group found the shackled and weakened form of Stone, the man they had been seeking. However, through his grunts and head shakes it became clear the Heart of Darkness was not here, and Grimme had it elsewhere.

The posse helped Stone to his feet and moved towards the exit… but there borrowed time was up it seemed. Having discovered the wardens body in the wardrobe upstairs, they pushed the alarm and patrols of guards rushed about. Two such guards spied the posse and persued them as they fled to the sewer pipe exit. Rushing through the power room, they quickly clambered down into the sewage room, tying the hatch shut using one of the ladder rungs. As they moved to the pipe, tentacles shot out of the liquid sewage below them, as they realised the soft spongy floor was part of a large shit-eating beast. Zachariah was caught by one tentacle, but with stealth no longer an issue, the party let loose with hellish gunfire, blasting them all into calamari.

Out the sewage pipe, they met up with Old Pete, who was pleased to see Stone. He was less pleased about the gun in the face from Ned saying he’d set them up. At this point, he was perhaps saved by Stone muttering that Grimme had the heart of darkness and planned to use it. Today. An ominous warning confirmed by the ringing of church bells – Grimme calling an early service this Sunday. The knife boat shot over the water, once again protected by the mysterious mists, and soon the posse were striding up the roads toward the Church of Lost Angels, Stone and Old Pete leading the way armed with dual colt peacemakers each.

Black clouds rolled in, and Ned saw forms moving within. The rain started – acid rain that burned. The posse quickly ran inside the church to hear the reverend speak a fire and brimstone sermon about the dark forces that conspire against man. As the posse strolled up the aisle, past the thousands of people entranced by the sermon, they spied the heart of darkness on the pulpit next to Grimme – and it was glowing. As the reverend delivered the peak of his sermon, a large winged demon crashed through the large rosette stained window and mocked this “servitor of a false deity”. The reverend called back at the foul creature of darkness to begone and soon the two were duelling, the aura of light cast from Grimme battling against the dark aura of the demon lord.

A large breath of smoke from the demon filled the church with lesser demons, who started to feast upon the crowd. Panic ensued, and the crowd scattered for the exits. Stone and Old Pete lept over pews, battling demons to try and reach the gem. A shot from Felix reflected off it, and before the posse could move further down the asile, a greater demon called his brethren forward to deal with another foolish servant of the dead god, pointing his finger at Zachariah as the evil forces moved to surround the heroes…

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Into the Rock
Searching the rock for the stones

Heading into the Rock prison, the posse had to wade through sewage and bilge to finally enter the prison basement. Here they freed Annie Appleseed from a cell that kept her powers at bay – she seemed distraught and traumatised from her captors that had been working away at her mind, asking for information on the Heart of Darkness.

They then snuck upstairs, avoiding or disabling guards until they reached the top of the barracks, where they came upon the warden’s room. A small, stocky man, he was prepared for their entry and lay upon them with a shotgun and a blooded bone that rose intoa cackling horror of made of blood and bone ! Annie Appleseed took this abomination down with a throw of her knife, and the party quickly subdued the warden. Looting the room, the group found the key they sought to the inner sanctum below, where both Stone and the heart were being kept, according to the mysterious stranger who had bought them here.

The posse headed back down, but whilst sneaking through a large reception room Li Fu collapsed, having already been badly injured from two shotgun blasts that had caught him on the roof in an earlier encounter, only being saved by Trixabelle Ting striking the assailant clear off the room and down into the shark-infested water. His collapse here alerted two guardsmen who demanded surrender. The party sprung, Li Fu occupying one guard, whilst the rest ran from there points of hiding to take down the other, who would have returned fire soon, had not once more the deadly throwing skills of Annie Appleseed ended his life swiftly with a blade to the throat.

The posse dragged the bodies to the cells below, and now all in the robes of prison guards (save Trixabelle who was too short for such garb), they began to explore the lower levels in search of there goal…

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