Returning to Deadlands in my frantic efforts to get back up to date in the write-ups of the various games I've been playing over the last few, errr, years...
We're dusty, tired and hungry by the time we walk into Lion's Roar. Hungry? So what's new?
We need to find a ship willing to take us out to where Sam said we'd find Born in a Bowl. Eventually, the captain of the Archeron agrees to take us for one of the dubloons we found on the way here. We leave the following morning, only to be attacked by a water sprite - a sentient spout of water - later in the day. The following day, the others overhear the crew planning to murder us for the rest of our dubloons, so want to pre-emptively kill them. I'm not happy about it, but it means we're ready when they come for us and win. Having our own boat will make travel easier, but I feel bad compounded murder with theft until they promise me we'll return it to the late captain's family once we're done with it.
Problem is, Chin's the only one of us with any real boating experience, and even his is minimal. Means it takes us around a week to find the mesa. It's easy enough to see: Native American bodies line the beach. The living ones let us enter and explain the corpses are Rattlesnakes - bad guys who pretended to be part of the group then stole Born in a Bowl. Seeing as we need to find her, a scout (Eyes like Fire) and a shaman (Weematai) are instructed to help us bring her back.
Back on the boat, I find a scrap of paper, a page torn from a book - a diary or memoir, maybe. We puzzle it out together (apart from Chin, who can't read):
...couldn't even consider it further. I was too afraid.
Mother had gone by then, and the whole westside was in flames. You could hear folks screaming. Folks we knew. Lord, I should have helped them but I was crying and so very afraid. That thing - I dare not write it again - was still out there. The ghost rock was burning and it sounded like devils clawing their way out of Hell.
And I wasn't ... find me and Emily, so we .. and as we ran past the Whateley House I remember how Billy had once said he was in the library and he saw a picture of a lightning bolt in an old book. Such a strange thing to remember. But then again, There were many stranger thingsCarson's concerned: "Whateley" is a magical family who use blood to enhance their power. We share a look, understanding this is something we can't let distract us now, but will need to look at again.
On the search for Born in a Bowl, Weematai suggests we start at Gamora. Chin's heard of the place, and on checking his guidebook Tesla agrees that it's an abandoned mining town to the north, nicknamed 'Doomtown', though the book doesn't say where the name comes from and Chin doesn't know.
It takes us a few days to reach 'Doomtown'; we arrive shortly after sunset, at that point when the last glow of the sun has gone and it's fully dark. Eyes like Fire has told us he can see in the dark: we now see his eyes glowing and it's easy to believe. Chin hooks us up to the dilapidated dock and anchors the boat as a precaution against the state of the jetty. The wooden steps and rails make the climb to the town precarious. All we can smell is rotten wood. It permeates the air from the dock to the town.
There's a glimpse of a person in the corner of my eye. I look again, and it's just a rotten door, swinging in the breeze. There's no one in the first building, but Weematai encourages us to keep going as something here doesn't feel right to her, the same kind of "not right" as she felt when the Rattlesnakes attacked.
We get a good whiff of corpse at the saloon; the others won't go inside, so I creep up the wooden stairs alone. There's noises behind one door, so I open it. Inside, the room is filled with moving, writhing corpses. I slam the door shut without seeing any more, but am too scared to move. I don't know how long I stand there, hearing the thump of my heart and my ragged breath, but eventually Carson arrives to see if I'm ok. I manage to stammer out what I saw, and he pushes me behind him before opening the door and going in. The door slams shut behind him - I hear the distinct sound of his fireballs exploding as I struggle with the door. When it swings open, it seems the whole thing was a trick of the wind in the bedsheets...
In the general store, the dilapidation of the town has managed to warp even the metal items beyond use.
There's one brick building in town, the mining authority's headquarters. Rusted bars cover shattered windows. Carson shines his lantern through and peers inside, only to go even whiter than normal, and mutters "No man, you're dead. We looked for you."
The handle goes cold in Tesla's hand - he and Carson back away as shadows swarm and coalesce into the shape of a man wearing a cowl, armed with large guns with sharp, curved blades on the handles. It swoops at Carson, screeching "Justice comes!"
It focuses on Carson, ignoring the rest of us. Weematai whispers something, then repeats it louder: "Hanging Judge!" She directs us to shoot it with its own guns, then hang it. Tesla and Chin grapple for the weapons as the Judge wings Carson's head with a bullet - it throws Carson off balance, and his next set of fireballs come for us instead of their intended target. It's the final distraction needed, though; Chin and Tesla get the guns and shoot it until it falls, and we hang it from the cliff. A bell tolls from the church.
As we head to the church, Weematai explains a bit more about the Hanging Judges: they come to enact retribution. Carson says he had a feeling of Steve from it, which doesn't make any sense, because Carson's been really hurt by the loss of Steve. Oh, he's been stoic and put on a brave face, but I remember the frantic, distraught man we had to pull from the shipwreck.
The church is the only other building not made of wood, though it's missing half its roof. There's no bell ropes, and as we look up we see no clappers for the bells either. I can't find a Bible, but Carson finds the preserved body of the priest; not rotten, but desiccated.
It's gone midnight, and Weematai, at least is exhausted from the fight. We head back to the boat to sleep.
In the morning, we notice the body of the Judge is no longer hanging where we strung it.