The Weird West

Hellstromme's Hellhole
The lion's den turns out to be more of a pit trap

Lodge takes the heroes and Allan Pinkerton to a secure rail car for an interrogation. Pinkerton takes full responsibility for his agency’s actions and then demands a full pardon in exchange for his cooperation. Not satisfied with a presidential pardon, he also demands a pardon from Lodge’s boss.

Once this is granted, Pinkerton explains that he fell into the Wizard’s orbit slowly, providing security or procuring rare items, until the Pinkertons were the Wizard’s number one go-fers. Jack asks whether it’s unusual for Pinkertons clients to have names like “the Wizard” and “the Dark Woman.” Pinkerton says it’s quite common, a trend he blames on the penny dreadfuls, but in most cases he can see right through the disguise.

In the case of the Wizard, Pinkerton lacks absolute proof but feels all signs point to Darius Hellstromme. The inventor’s devices have played a key role in the Wizard’s plans and Hellstromme’s mansion has served as the closest thing the Dark Woman has to a home. Pinkerton scoffs at Maria’s suggestion that the Dark Woman might be the Wizard, but admits he knows little about her. He does supply the party with a name, “Mina.”

Lodge agrees that the heroes should investigate Hellstromme’s compound outside of town. Whatever his role, the man was central to the Wizard’s plans. Moreover, Lodge expects the Mormons to move quickly to protect Hellstromme, as his devices are what has guaranteed Deseret’s autonomy. With all most all of his forces thrown at the Junkyard, the mansion is likely to be lightly guarded.

Pinkerton warns that there are other dangers. The facility, built on the edge of the salt flats, is surrounded by an electric fence whose true purpose is to give off a hum that wards away Rattlers. The area around the mansion is also littered with mines that periodically move about, making mapping a safe route impossible. Hellstromme’s automatons emit a signal that the mines recognize as friendly, but due to the self destruct button, no one else has been able to copy it.

After considering several unorthodox approaches, the heroes decide to access the mansion by air. Vincent hooks a line between the autogyro and the hot air balloon, while the rest of the party climbs into the latter. With Jolene as his co-pilot, Vincent takes off and tugs the balloon towards the mansion. As they approach, the party notes with concern that several of the outlying building in the compound are on fire. As they pass over the electrified gate, the heroes drop a stick of dynamite down to disable it.

When the balloon nears the main building, Vincent releases the line and then teleports onto the roof. Jolene pilots the autogyro away while the rest of the party disembarks from the balloon. Much like Greta von Breuner’s place, the mansion’s curtains are all drawn. Hightower smashes in a window and ducks inside, nearly plunging two dozen feet. The mansion is an empty shell.

Inside, a huge hole has been cut in the dirt floor. At the very bottom is what looks like a lab, though a large portion of it is taken up by a crackling dome of electricity. The party descends by rope and then takes an elevator down to the bottom. There are several passages leading off from the hole, but most of them look like they’ve been recently torched.

The heroes can make out the silhouette of a man inside the dome of energy. When he’s satisfied they don’t work for the Wizard, the man asks the heroes to shut down the generator down the hall and free him. Unfortunately, it’s guarded by an automaton named Mr. Shunt.

The party attempts to ambush Mr. Shunt, but Vincent accidentally gives them away. Fortunately, the machine’s Gatling gun arm soon malfunctions, forcing it to try to lumber into melee range while the heroes struggle penetrate it’s heavily armored frame. Finally, Argent New Haven stabs it through both glowing bring eyes, piercing the brain within. This causes Mr. Shunt to explode, although fortunately the party escapes the blast relatively unscathed.

Vincent shuts down the power, allowing the man inside the electric dome to get free. It is none other than Darius Hellstromme—though he is quick to insist that he is not the first Hellstromme. A former con man, he was brought in to impersonate Hellstromme after his predecessor, another fake, died abruptly. He has represented Hellstromme Ironworks in public while spending the rest of his time a virtual prisoner of the Dark Woman. The inventions are largely the responsibility of a young Hungarian man, Nicky, who was kept chained up in the lab.

The day before, the Dark Woman had stormed into the building and caused quite a stir. The Wizard’s people began burning documents and destroying equipment, while the automatons began marching out. Amid the chaos, Hellstromme managed to save a few scraps from the flames and then snuck down to the lab to free Nicky, whose help he needed to cross the minefield safely. Unfortunately, at that point, the automatons became hostile to them and Nicky had to activate the lightning shield to protect them. When the machines had departed, Nicky was able to walk safely through the electrical barrier but couldn’t shut it down without getting past Mr. Shunt. Hellstromme was left in the lurch until the heroes arrived.

The document he salvaged provided a number of clues about the Wizards operations:

  • A recent telegram from San Francisco warns that cargo from India was lost due to a pirate submersible targeting British shipping. The message suggests that the “Emperor” may have been involved and warns that “Paladin” is on their trail.
  • A newspaper clipping about a failed search for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, along with a treasure map by someone named Peralta and the note “they’re looking in the wrong place.”
  • A letter from “Sam Colt” to his wife indicating that he was on a quest to stop an evil that threatened the world. The letter said that someone called the Pale Horseman was with him and that Colt did not expect to return.
  • A personal note about the “Tombstone project” indicating that someone called “Ike” is concerned that “Holiday” is getting suspicious. The note recommends sending in “Ringo” to fix things, but worries about open violence, given the presence of “the Earps.”
  • Another note complaining that the Boss of Carson City is difficult to work with, particularly given his opposition to extending the Golden State Railway.
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Escape on a Hot Air Balloon
The party's efforts to free Pinkerton hit a bit of a snag

With the ID cards to avoid mystical detection, the party decides to march straight through the front doors of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, posing as agents from the Arizona Office.

Vincent charms one of the receptionists, Jolene, into telling them how to get straight to Mr. Pinkerton. Vincent also sets up a date with her that evening.

The founder of the Pinkertons has a suite on the top floor of the building, but the party decides to stop on the Special Projects floor to try and procure advanced weapons. They manage to talk the lead scientist into putting in an order for several devices, to be delivered to them at Pinkerton’s suite.

After bluffing their way through more security, the party reaches its destination and steps into the antechamber outside Pinkerton’s suite. Unfortunately, his personal secretary is unconvinced by the heroes’ story. The secretary soon reveals himself as a Rakshasa and tries to prevent the party from reaching Pinkerton. Once the creature is defeated, the heroes use its oddly-shaped hand to break the sealing spell on Pinkerton’s quarters and step inside.

Allan Pinkerton is mildly annoyed that they took so long to get him out, but that quickly turns to fear as a series of explosions rock the building. Pinkerton warns that Hellstromme has come to finish him off. The party quickly decides to head to the roof to escape on one of the autogyros housed there.

Unfortunately, the roof has been overrun with Clockwork Tarantulas. While Vincent and Pinkerton try to prepare one of the autogyros for take off, the rest of the party clashes with the automatons. They are soon joined by a pair of augmented gunmen dropped onto the roof from two Hellstromme autogyros. The augments rake the heroes with their Gatling guns while the autogyros circle around above, firing.

After clearing out the mechanical spiders and the gunmen, the heroes hear banging on the door from people desperate to get to the roof. Hightower had jammed the door shut with a crowbar, but now opens it. Jolene and another Pinkerton agent stumble out onto the roof. Jolene warns that Hellstromme’s automatons have burst into the building and are killing everyone, floor by floor. Hightower pitches a stick of dynamite down the stairwell to discourage further visitors, while Maria picks off one of the autogyro pilots.

Vincent reveals that the autogyro can only safely carry four people. It is decided that he will pilot the vehicle, carrying Pinkerton, Jolene, and the other agent, while the rest of the party finds another route down.

As the launch catapult hurls the autogyro off the roof, Vincent deftly avoids crashing into the hot air balloon that is rising up beside the building. Inside the balloon’s gondola are Lodge and several troops. He throws down a rope ladder to the rest of the party just as Maria finishes off the pilot of the other Hellstromme autogyro.

Lodge explains that Hellstromme emptied his factories of war machines and sent them after the Pinkertons. When that happened, the Secret Service agent diverted a trainload of Marines heading west to join the hunt for Custer. The Marines are presently fighting the automatons throughout the Junkyard. Vincent safely lands the autogyro at the Marine’s rail yard command post, while Lodge escorts the rest of the party there.

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Interview with a Vampire

Convinced that Scar, the gladiator sponsored by Greta von Breuner is the augmented sasquatch sought by mystical forger Maximilian Hunt, the heroes decide to pay the Austrian aristocrat a visit. They choose to head over in the middle of the day, when the vampire will be most vulnerable.

After shooting the lock off the iron gate, they approached the shrouded mansion and try to figure the best way to break inside. To let in some light, they toss a brick through a second floor window (after Jack first scribbles a comment about Vincent onto it). Ultimately, they kick the front door down and charge inside.

Greta’s butler then promptly shoots Argent New Haven in the neck. After trading fire with the butler (and blowing up a chandelier), Hightower wounds the man and forces him to surrender. He declares he will never betray Lady von Breuner, citing his family’s centuries of service to her father the Count. Hightower is only interested in Scar and demands to know the gladiator’s location.

“Normally, he is kept in the basement. But right now, he’s behind you.”

A monstrous patchwork man augmented with heavy armor a buzz saw and a chain saw for hands, Scar had sneaked around behind the party on the butler’s orders. With the party distracted by the gladiator, the butler seizes a rapier from a wall display and attacks Hightower. In the ensuing melee, the butler is finally slain and Scar is slowly battered into unconsciousness.

“Who is Vincent?”

The party then encounters the Lady von Breuner, who had stayed on the second floor during the fight (and has the brick). She’s annoyed that they barged in and killed her prize fighter and her butler (“It such a shame you killed Otto; now there’s no one to clean him up”), but it’s only part of her general disgust with the Junkyard. Tired of dealing with the Hellstromme, the Wizard, and the Dark Woman, Greta cheerily tells the heroes what she knows.

According to the pale blond vampire, Hellstromme is in league with the Wizard, who is trying to start a war in the West as a necessary part of a ritual to break down the barriers between this world and the Spirit World. Greta’s family of vampires, which grows strong when the walls between the worlds are thin, initially supported the plan but after repeated failures with (the Cheyenne and Tinker Taylor) has decided to cut ties with the Wizard. Greta is also annoyed that the Wizard’s distaste for civilian casualties has prevented her from killing any prey.

Greta promises to leave town that night and happily lets the heroes haul off the unconscious Scar. She also reveals that she had brought a handful of Nosferatu with her to the Junkyard, at her father’s insistence, but she hates the creatures and plans to kill the last remaining one before she goes.

The vampire and the heroes part company amicably, with Maria fetching a wagon to carry the patchwork man away. Although Scar is not the sasquatch, the forger is nonetheless happy with the prize and provides the party with the last ID card they need to get everyone into the Pinkerton headquarters.

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Wormfood
The bigger they are, the more loot you can strip off of them

After the previous evening’s events, the party meets with Mr. Lodge to review their current status and discuss next steps. Lodge doesn’t have much information on Greta von Breuner they don’t already know, but he does have some leads for finding the last two enchanted cards necessary for the whole party to enter the Pinkerton Headquarters without setting off alarms.

Some of the guards they defeated on the train were Pinkerton agents and would have cards on them. To Lodge’s knowledge, no one has recovered the bodies. There is also a mystical forger, Maximilian Hunt, who might be able to fake up a card—for a price. The party decides to go with option A.

They rent a horse and cart and follow the railroad tracks until they start running across bodies along a particularly barren and lifeless stretch of track. They search the bodies and find nothing, but they find themselves several corpses short. Hightower spots a set of tracks leading away from the rail line towards a rocky outcropping. Following the tracks, the heroes spy an unconscious guard slumped on the rock—and at that moment Jack notices several young Rattlers approaching.

While the rest of the party leaps up onto the rock, Argent New Haven stands his ground and fends off the critters with his sword while Hightower and Maria snipe them from relative safety. Once the monsters are slain, the party hauls the fatigued Pinkerton back to the cart—just in time for the rumbling approach of the mother Rattler.

Maria takes the reins, while the rest of the party tries to fend off the giant worm. Jack gets grabbed by a tentacle, but Argent manages to shoot him free. Vincent discovers his flamethrower has trouble penetrating the creature’s leathery hide. Hightower tosses a stick of dynamite at the creature but only wounds it. Spying the nexus of tentacles as the Rattler opens its maw, Hightower manages to get off a killing shot with his Winchester right at the cognitive node.

Jack recognizes that Rattler hide is a valuable commodity and while Argent guards the kill, the rest of the party returns to the Junkyard, where they strike up a deal with the Crooked Razors to skin the monster and split the profits.

Returning to the hotel with their prisoner, the Hightower and Vincent get him to talk about the layout and security of the Pinkerton Headquarters. But the party is still short one card to get into the building undetected. Lodge sets up a meeting with the forger Maximilian Hunt, who is presently operating out of the rail yard. The forger is willing to create a copy of the enchanted card, but only if the party obtains an augmented Sasquatch which escaped with its unmodified companion from the Hellstromme labs.

Hightower suspects that the Sasquatch is in fact the mysterious gladiator “Scar” that Greta von Breuner has been sponsoring. A little investigating suggests that the creature is being kept inside her mansion in the Junkyard. The party begins to work out a plan…

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A Trip to the Museum
A scavenger hunt reveals new details about the Wizard's plot

After resting up from the events at the Charnel House, the party goes to meet with their Secret Service contact, Mr. Lodge. They ask about Greta von Breuner, but Lodge does not have much more information to give them: she is fond of dressing all in white, she arrived in the city a few years ago to represent her father the Count’s interests on the Hellstromme Ironworks board, she rarely appears in public except at the nighttime gladiatorial matches, and during her few appearances in the smog-shrouded daytime she carries an umbrella.

The party also asks Lodge about getting into the Pinkerton Headquarters. They obtained three Pinkerton cards, which are needed to avoid setting off an alarm. Lodge tells them that if they want to obtain more, they could trek back along the railroad tracks to find one of the guards that fell from the train, or they could reach out to a mystical forger in town, Maximilian Hunt, to create fake cards for them. Lodge also informs them that the building has only two ground floor entrances: the main doors and the Archives entrance, which is always left unlocked but from which no one ever seems to return. There is also a landing pad for autogyros on the roof.

Before breaking out Alan Pinkerton, the party decides to investigate the rogue Secret Service agent Tinker Taylor, who has organized a scavenger hunt to supply components for his latest custom invention. The reclusive Taylor will only meet with the winners of the contest, so the heroes follow a tip from Lodge and head to the Museum—sort of the Junkyard’s junkyard where Hellstromme Ironworks disposes of its broken and obsolete devices.

Sorting through the scrap heaps, the party begins to find the items on their checklist: old copper pipes, autogyro engine chassis, and thermometers. After gathering half the required items, Argent New Haven and Maria stay to guard the collection while Jack heads off to hire a horse and cart and Hightower and Vincent split up to continue the search.

Hightower spots the last of the copper pipe, but unfortunately it is behind a group of armed men being led through some sort of ritual by a man in a white hood. Hightower approaches stealthily and notices that a gang of black augments is preparing to ambush the first gang. Hightower takes out the Klansman leading the ritual with a single shot and picks off another one of the group while the augments finish off the rest. He learns that augments are members of the Crooked Razors, one of two major gangs in town, the other being the 10th Street Reds, which is allied with the Klan. The Razors are grateful for Hightower’s assistance and are willing to pitch in on a future endeavor.

Jack, meanwhile, was ambushed on his way to the stables. His old enemy Reginald Van Cleef, along with a hired augment, leapt from a dark alley and attacked. Though wounded, Jack managed to break free from the augment’s grasp and take cover from across the street. Once the augment was slain, Van Cleef fled, but not before threatening to return.

Hightower and Vincent returned to the group with the remaining components and Jack returned with the cart. The only item left on the scavenger hunt list was the hide of a white buffalo. However, as the party began loading their items onto the cart, they were challenged by a little old man in a tattered tweed suit. Calling himself the Curator of the Museum, he reprimanded the party for trying to cart off items from its collection.

Vincent managed to convince the Curator that they were merely taking the artifacts to be cleaned. The Curator agreed to allow them to borrow the items in exchange for obtaining a white buffalo hide for him from a woman named Madame Fortuna. He took the party into the Museum’s Special Collections section hidden beneath a large pile of rubbish, where he introduced the party to Yoric, his fossilized Utahraptor guardian.

On the way back to the hotel with the supplies, Vincent and Jack reviewed the scavenger hunt list and came to a startling conclusion. The components could be assembling into a bomb that could flood a mystically constrained area with toxic aetherstone fumes.

After unloading the supplies, Vincent and Hightower traveled to a bazaar the southwest outskirts of the Junkyard, where amid the various Indian craftsmen and merchants they found Madame Fortuna’s brilliantly decorated wooden wagon. Inside, Madame Fortuna, a woman of about forty with Mediterranean features and colorful dress, offered to read their fortunes. Vincent was told he did not have long to live, while Hightower’s future contained peace and wealth.

When the heroes explained they had come about the white buffalo and revealed they had survived encounters with supernatural creatures before, Madame Fortuna dropped her air of mystery and matter-of-factly explained the situation. The daughter of a gypsy and a cowboy, Eliza Fortuna’s father had abandoned them when she was quite young. When she married a cowboy herself, her mother cast binding spell on him to keep him from abandoning her. Unfortunately, the spell was so powerful that when her husband was killed during the war, he crawled out of the grave and came looking for her. Madame Fortuna was using the white buffalo hide to ward him off, but every night he still hung around nearby calling her name. She has been forced move frequently, as his wailing tends to bother the neighbors

Fortuna asked the heroes to deal with her late husband, after which she’d gladly give them the hide. With some investigation, the party learned that her husband, Jed Lawson, simply wanted to apologize and say his goodbye to his wife. The party brought the two together for an awkwardly tender reunion and then set Lawson’s remains on fire. Fortuna gave them the white buffalo hide and offered to assist them should they ever need information about the supernatural.

Having gathered all the scavenger hunt items, the party arranged a meeting with Tinker Taylor at the hotel and then alerted Lodge about their plans to ambush the rogue spy. A man with a narrow face and frazzled beard and hair, Taylor arrived at 8 p.m. wearing smoke-darkened glasses that hid his eyes. While the rest of the party trained their guns on his guards, Vincent teleported behind him and tried to knock him out. Unfortunately, Taylor proved difficult to subdue and only the timely arrival of Argent managed to knock him unconscious.

Underneath his glasses, Taylor’s eyes were pitch black. Lodge recognized the condition and rolled the man over to reveal an open wound at the base of his skull. While the party held him down, Lodge poured some of the hotel owner’s moonshine into the wound to drive out the braincrawler that had possessed Taylor.

The following morning, Taylor came to and explained that he had been infected as part of a plot by the Dark Woman to kill Brigham Young and the leaders of Deseret, frame it on the Secret Service, and ignite a war between the Mormons and the U.S.

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Wheels Within Wheels
A lot of talking, some scheming, and a little fighting

After staggering away from the near-train crash, the party is able to avoid the attention of authorities but not of a courier who hands them a manila envelope. The messenger was hired to wait for them and deliver the package, which turns out to be a letter from their Secret Service contact instructing them to meet him at a restaurant by the train station, Gentile Ben’s.

The heroes find lodging in the nearest hotel, the Sticky Widget, which has the lowest rates in town because its customers keep disappearing in the night. The Pinkertons can’t be bothered to investigate and the local gang, the Crooked Razors, denies responsibility. The hotel owner hires the heroes to investigate, but despite keeping watch while they share the presidential suite, nothing attacks them during the night. Before going to bed, Jack, Vincent, and Maria have a lengthy discussion about guns in which Maria reveals she acquired her Peacemakers from noted gunslinger Johnny Ringo and claims to have killed him.

Come morning, the party gathers more information about the disappearances, which started happening a few months ago. The victims were lone factory workers, mostly new in town, and all of whom had been involved in brawls shortly before their disappearance—often at the Squeaky Wheel Tavern. No more than two or three are taken a week. Hightower, Maria, and Argent investigate the tavern while Jack and Vincent peruse the shops. The Squeaky Wheel, a former stables converted to a tavern, serves mostly workers from Hellstromme’s factories. Hightower forces the owner to admit that he submits a list of anyone involved in a bar fight to Greta Von Breuner, the daughter of an Austrian Count who sits on the board of Hellstromme Ironworks; she had provided a loan to the tavern keeper. Hightower acquires the most recent list of rowdy types and returns to the Sticky Widget, where he compares it with the list of missing guests and discovers that the most recent missing person, a man named Isaac who vanished a week ago, is on both lists.

The party then treks down to Gentile Ben’s to rendezvous with the Secret Service contact, a well-dressed young man with a closely-trimmed beard. He is disappointed at the ruckus the heroes caused entering the town, but is impressed that they were able to kill the Dark Woman. Upon learning of the offer from Allan Pinkerton, he suggests that the heroes bring him to the Consulate in Salt Lake. He can also set up a safe point at the train station.

The resources of the Secret Service are somewhat limited, however, as he is the only agent operating in Deseret. The last few agents they tried to infiltrate into the Junkyard turned up dead, except for the most recent one, who appears to have gone rogue. Major Joseph Hancock Taylor, nephew of the late President Zachary Taylor, entered the Junkyard posing as an inventor named Tybalt “Tinker” Taylor, but after a few weeks he stopped sending in reports. His business appears to be booming, however, and according to the paper he has even organized a scavenger hunt for rare components. The heroes decide to look into his case for possible connections to the Wizard.

The Secret Service agent informs the heroes that the Pinkertons never leave their headquarters except in groups and don’t mingle much in the city. A few are known to frequent the underground fighting pits held at places like the Charnel House, but the agent doesn’t know the password to get in.

The party then heads over to the Squeaky Wheel to chat folks up and learn about the gladiator fights. Vincent has a long talk with a man named Bob and learns the password to that night’s fight (“Old Hickory”). Several Pinkertons are likely to attend, led by a guy named Smiley who has a gold fang in place of one of his canines. The main event of the evening is a fight featuring Scar, a gladiator sponsored by Greta Von Breuner who always fights to the death and has never lost. There was some trouble a few months back finding fools to go up against Scar, but now there seems to be a steady stream of them.

That night, the party infiltrates the fights, which take place in an arena beneath the Charnel House butcher shop. Argent volunteers for a lethal gladiator fight, hoping to track down Isaac or other victims. He’s taken below to a chamber where the eager fighters are kept under guard, but after ascertaining that Scar’s opponent is likely kept in a private room, Argent sneaks away. After dodging a patrol of guards, he finds a room marked “Isaac.” After talking his way inside by posing as a chaplain/rabbi, he finds the terrified Isaac now augmented with armor bolted to his chest and a buzz saw for a right hand.

Unfortunately, Isaac is not alone and a figure in a dark coat, top hat, and scarf attacks Argent. The figure is quickly revealed as a Nosferatu. Argent fends off the creature’s attempts to tear his throat out and finally strikes it in the face with the Cross of Coronado, causing the monster to melt. He then escapes with Isaac and the two of them talk their way into the nonlethal fighters’ waiting area. Isaac explains that he was kidnapped by a pair of nosferatu and woke up in a dark room with his new augments. He didn’t see any other victims and assumes they all perished in the arena weeks ago.

Upstairs, the rest of the party spots the three Pinkertons, half-drunk and having a good time. Vincent comes up with a plan to isolate one of them. He quietly approaches Smiley, grabs the man, and teleports away to a dark corner where Hightower gives the Pinkerton a tap on the head. The party then loots his unconscious body, taking care to remove the Pinkerton card with gloves. They also pocket his cash and a disciplinary letter instructing him to spend a week helping Bentley in the archives.

Though taxed by the process of teleporting two people, Vincent returns to the two remaining Pinkertons and convinces them that Smiley needs to speak with them in a dark corner. Hightower then smacks their heads together like two drunken coconuts and the party acquires another pair of Pinkerton cards, along with some betting tickets.

Meanwhile, Argent’s ruse has been discovered as the fight clerk notices the discrepancy in the number of fighters in the room. Argent convinces the other remaining nonlethal gladiators that they are going to be led up to be slaughtered, sparking a riot. In the chaos, Argent and Isaac are able to escape. They reunite with the rest of the party and make a swift exit. On their way out, Hightower and Vincent convince the Charnel House ticket agents that they should form a union to keep from being exploited by the management.

The party returns to the Sticky Widget with Isaac. Vincent promises to build him a replacement hand and the heroes convince him to stay under their protection.

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The Train Job
A Liar, a Witch, and a Railroad

After stocking up on supplies while the Bee Line situation is sorted out, the heroes decide to take the Fantastic Fezzini up on his offer and attend his show at the Powderkeg Theater. There, Fezzini asks for a volunteer for a disappearing trick and gets Vincent. The magician warns Vincent that at the back of the crowd is a Pinkerton agent who has been tracking them since they arrived in town: it’s the man in the black hat who slew the last of the nosferatu.

Vincent is sealed up inside a man-sized box on stage for the trick, but decides to pull a trick of his own. Using his newest invention, he teleports behind the Pinkerton and quietly walks him outside at gunpoint for a little chat. The man is Luke Plummer and he’s been trying to find the right time to present the heroes with an offer from Allan Pinkerton himself.

Mr. Pinkerton wants to turn state’s evidence against the Wizard, but he’s become a virtual prisoner in his own headquarters, as the Dark Woman has gotten her mystical hooks into most of his men. He wants to hire the party to bust him out and he’ll tell every secret he knows about the Wizard. The party ultimately decides to take up the offer. Plummer warns them that Allan Pinkerton stays on the top floor of the headquarters, but to get onto the upper floors without setting off a mystical alarm they’ll need Pinkerton cards. He suggests nabbing some off of other Pinkerton agents, but not letting the cards come into contact with their skin. Plummer promises to meet up with them in the Junkyard, after he takes care of some other business.

The party follows up this meeting by visiting the Fantastic Fezzini in his dressing room. Fezzini reveals his true identity as the Mad Arab, having faked his own death with the connivance of the Sheriff. The two men have an arrangement, under which the Mad Arab only targets Bee Line trains. But he’s a double agent, working for the Dark Woman so that his “attacks” serve as distractions from other activities.

The Mad Arab is getting tired of doing someone else’s bidding, particularly given how the Wizard uses and disposes of people like him. He wants to bring the heroes on board so they can ambush the Dark Woman and he can keep her off his back while he loots the baggage car. The party agrees to join in and decide to stock up on dynamite to deal with the Dark Woman.

Jack also quizzes the Mad Arab about his knowledge of the supernatural; he uses his robberies to fund his occult research, which he is composing into a book. Magic seems to run in his family: his father was the court astrologer to the Khedive in Cairo. The Mad Arab admits to being present when the Dark Woman sent the Hateful Thing after Jack, though he doesn’t know why the hexslinger was targeted. He warns that the Dark Woman is probably not human, though he doesn’t know what manner of creature she is.

The party, with an enthusiastic Maria in tow, follow the Mad Arab and his lovely assistant Sally out to a shack in the desert, where the magician keeps his flying carpets. Most of the party enjoys the flight, but Vincent spends the whole time gripping the wooden frame for dear life. They land on top of the baggage car and quickly part ways with the Mad Arab, who heads into the baggage car while the heroes track back through the train to find the Dark Woman.

Eventually, they arrive at the First Class car, where someone has left the door to a private cabin open. Inspecting the room, Hightower, Jack and Argent discover a plate with a pile of raw meat on it. At this point, Bee Line security guards approach from the rear of the train while something flits onto the roof of the car.

Argent holds off the security guards while the rest of the party clambers onto the roof to face the Dark Woman. Dressed in mourning black, she’s floating several feet above the car. Although she uses telekinesis to hurl Jack backwards, the party wears her down with a steady stream of fire until she drops lifeless onto the train car.

As more guards swarm up the train towards them, Argent unhooks the cars to let the party speed away. The Mad Arab takes this opportunity to float by on his carpet and congratulate the heroes—before wishing them a speedy trip to hell on the doomed train. He flies away cackling, but Hightower manages to wing him with a Winchester shot. The heroes notice that the train’s acceleration is increasing as it hurtles towards a city.

Jack, Vincent, and Hightower race towards the train engine, while Argent tries to evacuate the remaining cars & then decouple them from the out of control train. Hightower falls and injures his leg, but Jack and Vincent manage to stagger to the front of the train, where they find the engineers tied up and unconscious and the controls sabotaged.

On a hunch, Jack blasts a section of the controls with a bolt of magic, managing to fuse some cut portions. Vincent is then able to regain control and with help from Jack and Argent, pulls down on the break lever just as the train grinds its way into Junkyard Station. The party then limps away before the authorities arrive.

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Night of the Long Teeth
Imprisoned and unarmed, the party successfully repels a vampire attack

After successfully slaying Mr. Schmidt’s pet nosferatu, the heroes emerge from the burning hotel to find the local Temperance League calling for their arrest for violating the town’s weapons ordinance. Sheriff Roark reluctantly leads them off to jail, but tells them it’ll be a few days until the railroad situation is resolved anyway, so they may as well lay low.

The party is held in a single cell at the back of the Sheriff’s Office, while Maria is led upstairs to a different holding area. A few hours into their stay, the heroes are joined by an elegantly dressed magician, the Fantastic Fezzini, who has been locked up after being accused of witchcraft by the Temperance League. The party discusses ways to discredit the League’s sour-faced leader and Fezzini beats Vincent in a poker game in which Jack observes that they both cheat.

As the sun sets, Fezzini recalls his knowledge of vampire lore from his days touring the Austrohungarian Empire and wonders what became of the nosferatu’s victims. With some effort, the party alerts the deputy on duty (a League member) and convinces him to put a watch on the graveyard.

Nonetheless, the Nosferatu attack the Sheriff’s Office. The deputy frees the party, but their only weapons are cups of water blessed by Argent New Haven in the name of the Omnimessiah and the switch blade he smuggled inside. Vincent tries to rush upstairs to get his devices from Hazardous Materials Storage, but enters the wrong room and gets ambushed by a nosferatu spawn. Argent jumps in after him and the two end up soaking one another with their cups of holy water. A second vampire appears and strikes down the deputy.

Hightower has more luck upstairs, where he manages to sneak onto the balcony while a nosferatu bangs uselessly on the Hellstrommium-plated door to Hazardous Materials Storage. Out on the balcony, Hightower comes face to face with another vampire, but gives it a face full of holy water, slaying it. Retrieving a Winchester rifle from a dead deputy, Hightower faces down the nosferatu while Maria emerges from inside Hazardous Storage with a Colt Peacemaker. It is Fezzini the magician who strikes the first blow, however; materializing behind the creature and blasting it with some kind of spell. Hightower then handily dispatches the beast.

Fezzini retrieves his lovely assistant Sally, who had been locked up with Maria, and the two of them vanish, but not before the magician urges Hightower to stop by his show: “We have much to discuss.”

Hightower and Maria race downstairs with Vincent’s equipment. Below, the rest of the party has engaged in a desperate struggle with the two remaining vampires, using weapons confiscated from the gun repository. In the darkness, however, it is difficult to strike a killing blow. Hightower shows them how it’s done by gunning down one of the other nosferatu from behind. The other makes a break for it and the party piles onto him.

Bleeding from a dozen wounds, crippled in one leg, its guts hanging out and its clothes on fire, the last nosferatu staggers outside in time to be shot through the heart by a mysterious man in a black hat, who nods at the heroes before disappearing into the night.

The Sheriff and his men arrive a few minutes later. They killed two more of the things elsewhere in town; the nosferatu appear to have emerged from a hidden basement beneath the Bee Line warehouse. Publicly, the Sheriff declares that the heroes had already been deputized and the whole thing was merely a ruse to lure the monsters into a trap. The members of the Temperance League studiously avoid the public eye for the next few days, while the heroes heal up and make purchases.

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Day of Defiance
A banishing, a swordfight, and a vampire slaying

After departing Whateley (soon to be renamed Doubleday) on good terms with everyone but the mine owner, the party (plus Maria) travels down out of the mountains to the town of Defiance, railhead for the Bee Line. Upon learning that all firearms must be turned in to the Sheriff upon entering the town, most of the party elects to remain outside while Argent and his longsword head into town to buy ingredients for the spell to banish the Hateful Thing.

While in town, Argent witness the execution of the bandit known as the Mad Arab. Curiously, the body is hauled out into the desert for burial under heavy guard by Sheriff’s Deputies. Argent also learns from Sheriff Roark that there is a railroad workers’ strike going on. The railroad sent down its enforcer Mr. Schmidt to crush the strike, but the Sheriff has prevented him from using strikebreakers. Instead, bodies have been turning up in the strikers’ camp and now in town. Roark suspects Schmidt released a chupacabra, but so far he’s seen no sign of whatever is causing the deaths.

Argent returns with the news from town and that night the heroes set up in the cemetery overlooking the town. Inside its wrought iron fence they plan to force the Hateful Thing to manifest so it can be destroyed. The creature raises skeletons from the graves to attack them, but their silver bullets prove too much and it is destroyed.

The next day, the heroes head over to the strikers’ camp to investigate the situation. Another body has turned up, drained of its blood like all the others, with no sign of the killer. Jack determines that it could not be a chupacabra, but there are several other blood-drinking beings it could be. Argent learns that Schmidt is a deadly fencer prickly enough to accept any challenge—but then, he’s killed every man he’s faced.

Argent proves his match, however, dodging Schmidt’s attack and then skewering him like a sausage. The celebrations are short lived, however, as the heroes learn that a terrifying creature has broken out of Schmidt’s room in the Golden Spike Hotel downtown and is going on a killing spree.

The party races to confront the beast, which turns out to be a Nosferatu. The monster proves resilient to gunfire and when Argent thrusts the Cross of Coronado at it, the creature is disturbed but does not recoil. Vincent’s Burninator only manages to set the hotel on fire. Finally, Hightower manages to kill the vampire with multiple shots to the heart.

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The Mines of Maria, Part III
The bigger they are, the more dynamite it takes

Dead Men’s Tales

The party ventures deeper into the Whateley mine, with Maria tagging along. The lower levels of the mine are dimly lit by the glow of aetherstone veins and the heroes don’t travel far before they exit the miner’s excavation and enter a set of tunnels much older. Vincent burns down a tangle of spiderwebs and egg sacks that blocked their path, causing an enraged Terrantula to attack but the party quickly dispatches it.

Further down the tunnel, they find a room lined with petroglyphs of running buffalos. Inside is Michael Doubleday, the husband of Eleanor Doubleday presumed dead in the mine disaster 12 years ago. After Michael confirms that none of the heroes are cultists, he explains that he used to work as a miner back when Noah Whateley found this deposit. When Michael and Eleanor discovered Whateley was some kind of Satanist, they confronted him in the mine as he tried to free Nycho-Teuthis. In the ensuing struggle, Eleanor was forced to set off dynamite to bring the cavern down and keep the creature trapped.

Michael managed to escape the cave-in and find safety in the petroglyph room, which has been warded against Nycho-Teuthis and its followers. Nor was he the first to take refuge there; a desiccated skeleton in the remains of a brown robe also shares the room. This was Padre Joaquin Diaz, a priest accompanying Francisco de Coronado’s expedition. One of Coronado’s lieutenants, Alfonso de Cardenas, led a band of Spaniards into the Colorado Rockies after having a vision of great riches there. They forced the natives to show them the hidden entrance to the subterranean depths, but in the darkness the natives turned on them. Diaz fled, while Cardenas and his remaining men pressed on, only to be destroyed by the guardian spirits. That was not the end for the Conquistadors, however, who still stalk the halls as animated skeletons, searching for some way past the Guardians.

Michael says that from what he’s pieced together from his knowledge of Indian legend and notes stolen from Whateley’s journal, a race of many-handed giants was trapped inside the Rockies by the efforts of White Buffalo Calf Woman and Coyote, who laid a series of wards on the mountain to prevent their emergence. Whateley and the cultists have been working to peel back those barriers, but they have yet to overcome the Guardians. Armed with this knowledge, the heroes set out to find the Guardians and hopefully convince them to let them pass.

First, they suffer a run-in with the skeletal Spaniards. Although the creatures are swiftly dispatched, they rise again moments later to attack once more. The party discovers that they must remove the gold doubloons from the skeletons’ eye sockets to keep the monsters from reassembling themselves. Carefully searching the room, the party also discovers the golden Cross of Coronado wrapped in some rags.

The Guardians

Further down the winding corridor, they reach the Guardians’ chamber. Argent, Hightower, and Vincent step forward to investigate, while Jack and Maria wait in the corridor. As the trio enters the chamber, the light behind them dims and a supernatural barrier cuts them off from the corridor. Three figures emerge from the darkness—their doppelgangers.

The mimics explain that Coyote is greatly displeased with their destruction of his shrine in Denver and the overthrow of his chosen servant Soapy Smith. Hightower and Vincent insist that they should be allowed to pass in order to destroy Nycho-Teuthis, but the doppelgangers insist they must provide penance by showing that they’ve learned their destructive impulses will ultimately only harm themselves.

At this point, Hightower has had enough and unloads his Colt Peacemaker from the hip. His bullets strike the copies of Argent and himself, but the wounds are suffered by the originals. The doppelgangers move to attack while Hightower stands dumbfounded. Vincent and Argent trade blows with their copies, but all the damage either version deals is only felt by the heroes. Hightower ultimately concludes that this must be some kind of trick and simply walks past the mimics, who watch him walk by. The other two follow his example and the doppelgangers simply fade away.

As Jack and Maria enter the chamber, the room fills with a pale mist, from which emerges a beautiful Indian woman wearing clothes of white buffalo hide. She heals most of their wounds, noting that Coyote really does not like them. She tells them about a sacred pipe in the room below which can give them an edge against the Devourer.

She also gives them a warning: the walls between Earth and the Spirit World are crumbling, and dark forces are slipping through the gap. Worse, some unknown force on this side of the barrier is working to sabotage it. She warns that the poisonous aetherstone is a sign of the Spirit World pressing into this reality and harbinger of what could come should the two worlds merge.

The Dweller in the Deeps

The heroes descend a narrow shaft into an antechamber where they find the sacred pipe, which summons up illusory doubles for three of them.

The chamber opens out onto a vast cavern wrapped in curving veins of aethersone—a glimmering aetherstone tainted pool lies at one end, while two great pillars of rock obscure the cave’s depths. The heroes enter cautiously and spy Nycho-Teuthis in a far corner of the open space, half hidden behind a pillar.

The Devourer is massive, well over thirty feet long, and covered in gnarled arms and tentacles. The monster is encased in its steel shell, except for one unfinished section on its right side. Sitting above the intersection of its main grasping tentacles is the Engine device Maria stole. Light seems to slide off the box of gears like oil as the parts move in patterns not possible under normal geometry.

The heroes devise a plan to ambush and distract the monster while Vincent hits the device with his flamethrower. However, they fumble their approach and alert Nycho-Teuthis, who burrows into the stone only to reemerge on the other side of the cavern, blocking their escape route. One of its massive tentacles seizes Maria.

Vincent manages to free her and a blast from his flamethrower melts the device, disorienting the creature. Hightower takes this opportunity to race towards the monster and use the dynamite on its unarmored side. Unable to reach it fast enough, he passes the explosives to Maria, who quickly plants them and runs.

Although the party had planned on using only one of the three bundles of dynamite they had recovered from the cult’s supplies, Hightower passed all twelve sticks to Maria, who planted them on the Devourer’s unarmored flank. The ensuing explosion ripped Nycho-Teuthis in half. It also ignited a chain reaction in the aetherstone, which began to bring the cavern down. The heroes scrambled to get out, with Jack barely dodging falling debris.

They hook up with Michael Doubleday and escape the collapsing mine into the orange light of late afternoon. The entire mountain has crumpled inward slightly due to their actions. When the party returns to Whateley, they see that in their absence the Hateful Thing has turned the town against them. However, the safe return of Michael Doubleday is able to overcome the instilled suspicions and the party is hailed as the town’s saviors. The mine owner Mr. Mechum is somewhat less pleased, however.

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