The Weird West

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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