You may have noticed a flutter of activity over the past few days. I've had really bad food poisoning so have been off work. Writing's been something I can do to take my mind off it. Feeling a lot better now, just very tired.
It's been Exalted so far, because we've just reached the end of the arc and will be taking a break from that game for a bit, which makes me sad in one sense because I love the characters and particularly the relationship between Taji and her brother (and I'm interested to see how things continue to develop between her and her lunar mate - I love a good RPG love story). It means I've been thinking about those stories a lot, so have wanted to write them.
However, I also want to write our Deadlands stories. We're taking a break over Christmas, which should hopefully help me catch up a bit. I left you last time just after we'd left Shan Fan for Perdition, near Lost Angels. The town is officially designated 'Ore Collection Station 37' and was quickly built by Dr Hellstromme as a company town. It filled up with survivors of the devastation he unleashed on the outskirts of Lost Angels. Its moniker comes from the way it overlooks Ghost Town, making it one step up from Hell. Despite this, it's less gloomy than Shan Fan, with a feeling of something akin to hope.
It's the morning of All Hallow's Eve when we reach Perdition, and it takes us most of the day to find the Fallen Angel's Saloon where O'Malley indicated he'd meet us. It's a divey miners' pub, smelling of sweat, dust, tobacco and stale booze. We get rooms and settle down for the night.
Lacey arrives at noon the next day. It's really nice to see him again. His friend, Sam Helman, has been jailed by the unlovely Rev Grimme, and he's hoping we'll be able to bust him out and gives us details of a contact in Lost Angels.
It's a big task, and we don't have time to discuss it: Carson had spotted a couple of guys eying him up in the pub, and they chase us as we leave. We think we've lost them, but right at the edge of town, they catch us again. One duals with Carson, pressuring him into firing first. Both shots miss their target and a firefight ensues. I duck my head down, trying to think of a way to get them all to stop fighting. Tesla's also not joining in, though I think more for fear of hitting Chin - who's leapt in, fists flying - than for any concerns at life lost.
Carson calls to the first to surrender, and I hear him spit at Carson "never to one of your kind" and as Carson executes him (and Chin kills the other), I wander on that. Does he mean the magic thing? Is this why Carson's so cagey about it? I don't think the others heard, and don't tell Carson I did. It seems a bit... personal.
When we reach Lost Angels, we're quickly overwhelmed by the constant sounds of violence pressing from all directions. Every time a Red Guardian appears, everyone falls away and silence prevails briefly. It's worse than the screams. People accept the conditions and Grimme's rule because he provides a feast every Sunday - and they're so starving, it's enough to convince them to ignore the worst of the atrocities.
The prison is on an island. O'Malley's contact has managed to rig the sewer access for us, and will provide an unspecified distraction as we row round to get in that night. There's things in the water. Sharks and... other things. In the moonlight, the sewage pipe seems to be bleeding into the bay. We have to crawl through it on hands and knees, emerging into a boiler room.
We make our way into the institution. Tesla's muttering alerts some guards; Chin and Carson take them out. My stomach churns at so much killing, but at least it means we have keys, and this means that we're able to rescue all 4 of the prisoners we come across: Sam Helman, as intended; a slightly wild looking man called Eddie Griff; Job 'Hoglegg' Dunstan, who's had both his hands removed; and Charlie Buckner - Dr Hellstromme's foreman, who helped us fit in when we accidentally fell into their path all those months ago, starting this whole endeavour. He's as surprised (and pleased) to see us as we are him.
We head back to the boiler room as fast as Job can manage. Carson tosses the guards' bodies down the sewer and thinks he sees a tentacle reaching for them. Tesla elecrocutes the water before we get in, just to be safe. We make it to fresh air with no issues, and resecure the passage. It's dark, with clouds across the moon. We row back to the cliffs between Lost Angels and Perdition, and decide we should go straight to Perdition. The clouds clear as we step on the plain, and as it hits Eddie he shifts into...
I don't stay to see. Ever since that puma attacked, this is what I've feared. Shifting like that, killing indiscriminately and not remembering anything after? The others wonder why I scream all night.
Charlie catches up with me eventually; calms me until the others arrive, Eddie unconscious and tied up, carried between them.
Back in town, Charlie leaves us to return to his camp. He won't tell us why he was imprisoned, but feels he owes us. Tesla and Chin have to break us into the inn, because the nightwatchman's asleep. I don't sleep. I don't need to face my dreams tonight.
In the morning, Sam explains a bit more. He's very, very grateful to have been rescued. Grimme and his inner circle are cannibals, and that Sunday feast is human flesh, so don't eat it: it "gets to you after awhile". Grimme is, apparently, nearly immortal, and a servitor of something called the 'Reckoners'. Sam learnt this from his cellmate Sees Far Ahead, a Shaman who also knew how to kill Grimme - but was 'taken' before he could share. There's another Shaman, north of Lion's Roar, who can help. Her name's Born in a Bowl. Sam tells us to find out how to kill Grimme and pass it onto the Pinkertons Agency - "let the big guns handle it". Though he admits politics means they aren't as powerful as they once were.
On Grimme's immortality, Sam went to one of the masses and saw a parishoner accused of treason turn into a winged beast before exploding into shards of bone - one of which went clean through Grimme. Grimme's response was to call down something he referred to as an angel of god, who healed everyone. This news makes me shudder; I can't imagine what devil's pact he's made, but I'm sure that wasn't a true Angel of the True Lord.
Job explains he used to be the Marshall of Lost Angels before Grimme came to power. His partner was killed and his partner's kids indoctrinated into the 'church'; they turned on him for not converting, left him handcuffed in a cell and lit a fire. He escaped by sawing off his left hand. He found a group called the Men of the Grid - the 'Gridders' - an anti-Grimme sabotage group;; despite being grateful for his rescue, he won't tell us any more about them. Frustrating, but understandable; Grimme ate his right hand after they caught him, so how does he know this isn't just another method to trick him into betraying them. He wants to go to Salt Lake City; we reckon Charlie will be able to help with that.
Lacey says there's no cure for being a werewolf, but we telegraph the Explorer's Lodge for help. They say the same (and I wonder whether the condition can be managed. But no one's saying, if they know). Lacey knows silver will kill them - bullets or a sword. Although, as I point out, that would also kill a normal person or wolf. Lacey adds that he's heard of cases where the afflicted person could control it, but I'm deflated when he continues: they know what they are and can control when they change in order to produce carnage.
Carson wakes Eddie. Seems he's not one of these. He looks at us like we're mad and starts screaming.
What can we do with him? Tesla and Carson start making silver bullets, just in case, but I'm not ready to give up yet. Maybe the shaman will help?
Something in my desperation makes Carson realise my lack of screaming the previous night was because I wasn't sleeping, because of Eddie. He takes me to one side, and gently persists with his questions until I've told him all about the puma attack - about riding along that gully on my pony when the clouds drew over the sun and filled me with dread, and from nowhere that puma leapt on me and... I blacked out. I don't know how I survived with just the loss of an eye. Shadows have gathered around me ever since, and that's when the dreams started. He's surprisingly sympathetic, if concerned. He reassures me I'm not like Eddie (it's kind, but he can't know). He says he will try and help. This side of him, this compassion and wanting to help, this side is one I want to see more of, I realise. This is so far from the sharp killer I saw yesterday. He lets me cry.
They take Eddie away that evening. I'm not sure where they take him but tell me he's ok.
I sleep that night. A good night's sleep, for the first time in years.