The Dead West

Bad Moon Rising...
by James Pennington

The morning after the sand storm was clear and cooler. There was no more problem with any critters and the wagon had held up well to the storm. A good bit of dusting was required to clear all the sand away, but it was done quickly. We all ate breakfast and headed out.

We were only about a day from Virginia City so we took the familiarity to camp where we camped on the first night out. It was a quiet evening. The stars were numerous in the clear sky and the sounds of coyotes in the distance carried. Come morning, we were off to get back to Virginia City.

We arrived a few hours before dusk. Rowena and Sara seemed to have their minds set on a nice long bath or two, or three. I had totally forgotten about the Annual Poker Tournament at Tyler’s saloon and rushed back to the Marquis to get cleaned up and dressed. Tara came into the room and had started to mention about how worried she had been when she noticed the bandaged wound in my side. I told her we were late and I would tell her later. She knew we were late and let it drop at that for now.

Tyler’s saloon was full. The poker tournament was one of the big yearly events in Virginia City. Players from near and far came to participate. For the most part, it was business as usual with the exception of an unfamiliar face at the bar who seemed to be keeping an eye on me. He made no actions so it was just noted. During the tournament, toward the end, a gunshot was heard by some people in the saloon, even over the raucous crowd noise. Jasper and the others went to check it out.

It wasn’t a good night for me at the table. Maybe it was the rush to get here, or all the other distractions, but I did not play up to my best. After departing that, I went to speak with the gentleman at the bar. He wanted to talk with me. We spoke and then he told me where he would be staying. I met up with the rest of the party just as the late evening train was arriving. But something was wrong.

The train never blew its whistle. It also came in at a constant slower speed. Jasper was able to jump up on it and get into the engine. He stopped the train. He discovered a body, viciously torn apart. He began investigating the rest of the train. I paralleled him outside the train as he made his way towards the back of the train. All the cars had the same basic look as the engine. It was apparent that whatever did this had left after ripping up the horses and livestock in the last car. Jasper tracked whatever had done this and I followed. We came upon a woman, recently attacked. I stopped her bleeding and we moved forward quicker. A scream was heard just ahead and we burst into the area. It was a werewolf and Jasper shot it twice in the head. We subdued it with Rowena’s aid. Rowena mentioned that the gentleman who was watching me may have some aid to offer this poor creature. I went and found Mr. Grayson (his name) and brought him to the scene. He was able to aid the man. The question was now about the woman who was injured. Would she turn next full moon? We will be keeping an eye on her.

The hour was very late and we all turned in for the night.

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Ticked Off!
by James Pennington

The sandstorm kicked up pretty fast. There was enough daylight left to see it in the distance, but it was obvious we were going to have to find shelter from this storm. Jasper’s sharp eye spotted a hill not too far away that we may be able to get out of the brunt of the storm. We turned the party that way and discovered a building structure near the bottom of the hill. Upon getting closer, it was an abandoned mine, the Sullivan mine.

We rode up to the building. The wind was picking up and we probably had only about 15 minutes before the storm was on us. Jasper investigated an area that looked like a stable. I went through what looked like a front door. The front room was quiet, save for the wind. I opened the door to the adjoining room. It was a bunkroom, but something was very wrong. The beds had sheets, but there appeared to be blood on them, and some possible bone fragments. I heard Jasper made a commotion in the stable and retreated from the building to find him explaining that we were possibly looking at some sort of infestation, maybe prairie ticks. Nasty.

With the storm bearing down, however, we had little choice by to bring the horses inside the first main room and tie down the wagon. Jasper and I went through the bunkroom and into the adjoining room. We found what had to be a supply area. We find a box of dynamite which we pulled into the main room. We then took the 2nd door out of the bunkroom. Jasper told everyone else to stay in this room until we checked out the whole building. The door led into a dining area where there was rotted food still on the table. We continued into the large room and found a door that led to the stables. We opened the door to see a horse, slowly dying. It was obvious something was in its stomach, eating it away from the inside. It was bloated. Jasper put the animal out of its misery, but that appeared to anger whatever was inside the animal. There wasn’t much time. Soren came running at the sound of the gunshot as Jasper and I grabbed the legs of the animal and quickly dragged the carcass out the door of the stable. We then used kerosene to burn the carcass and the tick that was inside. It tried to escape but the fire killed it.

We re-entered the main room to find that the others were no longer there. Even though they were told not to go anywhere, the two women in the party ventured into the supply room. Apparently, Jasper startled Miss Sara who fired a shot into the wall in Jasper’s direction. We all assembled to discuss the situation. We still had a couple areas to explore and make sure they were safe. The group moved through rooms and ended up at the mine shaft with a pulley system that lowered people into the mine.

I heard a faint sound. It could not be what I thought, but then I remembered the bassinet in the dining area. It was the sound of a baby crying down in the shaft. There was no hesitation. The group went down into the mine.

Once inside the mine, we started moving toward the sound. A group of prairie ticks moved out of the darkness towards us and attacked. We finally defeated them, though Soren had been injured by a couple of them. He said he was fine and we continued onward. We came upon a large chamber. Again, the ticks moved toward us and attacked. Soren moved out and noticed the large queen type tick and started firing at it. Rowena moved quickly through the room and picked up the child as Soren finished off the queen. The rest of us finished off the other smaller ticks. Both Sara and myself had been ‘infected’ with a tick that was now latching on to our insides and starting to draw blood. We decided that staying in the mine was not a good idea and we would take care of issues once up in the mine. We retreated toward the lift, and were attacked one last time. We quickly took care of them and went up the lift. Soren was unconscious by this time from damage taken. Sara, not having enough castor oil for all of us, removed the tick from me through a bit of painful surgery with myself getting drunk enough to not feel it too badly. Soren and Sara used the oil to get the ticks out of them. By the time the storm had passed, I had awakened from my drunken state, still in a bit of pain, but okay. It was surely going to be a hell of a day ahead.

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