After selling some of our loots, we find ourselves in the desert heading north. We're in southeastern Nevada, and have been on the trail for several days. The village approaching on the horizon looks like a promising to bed down for the night. We see a series of homesteads following what's likely a creekbed as we ride silhouetted against the setting sun.
In town, there's a saloon, a stable, a general store, a jail, a church with a large steeple. There's also a large building labeled "Bouffant's Boarding". A small sign by the side of the road says simple 'Hilton Springs'. There aren't many people on the streets, but it's a fairly small society. The saloon is called 'Daily's', the general store is "Parson's General Store". The place looks rundown. There is one large house in town, and it looks in good repair. There has been maint., but people obviously have better things to do than paint. The signs are faded, with occasional touch-ups. There are lots of ridges in the area, bordering the desert, with a low mountain in the near distance.
A man walks around a building, heading towards the saloon, but on sighting us makes his way toward the general. Georgiana and the Nun head towards the bourding house. The front entryway looks 'about as nice as it can'. A short old woman comes bustling down the stairs. She seems surprised to see women traveling alone. She admits to having the space when they ask for a pair of rooms. She asks for 50 cents a day, including supper and breakfast. She says her name is Bouffant, Mrs. Bouffant. They pay for two rooms for the night.
As I head for the general store. I meet a man named Richards leaving the building. We exchange pleasantries, and then I head into the general store.
The others enter the bar. The tender puts a book under the counter as they enter. He offers them rooms, and the Hexer insuniates that he'd like a hooker. It's funny. They belly up the bar and get themselves some drinks. The room is empty and the hexer comments on the slow business.
General Store. White apron. Affixing something to his apron. The general store owner is also the town marshal. I make some more small talk, and it comes up that there's something 'to talk about'. Frank Parsons. I tell him we'll be over in the saloon and to come over when he's free.
At the saloon. Richards has proceeded me here. I grab a saspirilla, and a few minutes later he follows me in. "If Mr. Webster were still here". Webster was a war hero in the union army, retired and became a big game hunter. A while back he went on a hunt, and he hasn't been back. He owns the large house in the center of town. Wormy is the town drunk. He was a friend of Webster's back in the day.
He's had several kidnappings recently: people have gone missing. Families out on the farmsteads have gone missing. Two weeks since the first family went missing. Their livestock was also missing when the houses were found empty. He feels out of his league with the situation. Eight farmsteads have emptied up to now. About 150 people in town total. It took a few days to notice, so no one is sure how often folks went missing.
The most recent family that went missing was the Baker's, which is east of town. Cindy Tuller survived a dissapearance. She spends most of her time in the Church nowadays. She seems 'touched', and she's about 8 or so. Mahone's gang may be the thingie. Red Rock Ridge Gang. They're a band of hooligans who hang out in the area. Sometimes they hit banks and stages in the region. Phil may be one of their names. Gang is named after one of the geographical features southeast of town.
The sister and I go to the church. As I walk around, the sister spends a long time working with the girl, praying and talking to her.
shoot her in the face, scoop out her eyeball and call it a day. -Jeff, proposing a solution to the little girl Cindy
Meanwhile, at the saloon, some hard looking men come downstairs. George eavesdrops from the end of the bar. They say something along the lines of 'leave em'. 'to hell with mahone' 'probably starved already'.
George says 'who might have starved already'? They get surly. The sister and I return to the saloon just as the tenseness starts. There's a great deal of bravado between the outlaws and the party. After a time the bandits whisper that they should be leaving. "It was all Mahoney! He dragged wormy out to the red rock. He deserved it!"
Things seem like they're going to move into violence, but I step up with a persuasive argument that at this point full disclosure might be a good idea. Thankfully, cooler heads reign. The talkative one reveals that wormy was killed by 'worms', which Mahoney pulls from the ground with some sort of magical item. There are now 'worms' all throughout the desert, and they fear Mahoney is trapped out on the rock. We insinuate that they should seek a living in another town.
We head at all speed out to the Baker stead. The place looks deserted, with the exception of some scraggly looking chickens. The barn is empty as well, though none of the ground is disturbed. We get the animals feed and water, and the birds dig into the nourishment with gusto. The house is a two-room affair. We give it a quick search. There are two small caches of money, which we leave undisturbed. We then move out to the fields, looking for clues. We find a ten foot diameter area of disturbed earth, along the edge of which something appears to have been dragged inwards.
"That's an argument for getting an armored hat and storing your dynamite strapped to your head." - Brian on a discussion about dynamite's volatility.
Resolved, we obtain a box of dynamite from Parsons before heading out into the wilderness. The ridge is on the edge of the desert, and as advertised is quite red. We gallop up the trail, heading towards the rock as quickly as possible. After a short time, we hear a man shouting from above. 'You there, stop!'
We catch sight of a rifleman in the shadows, and the kick our horses up to speed. Emily immediately snaps off a shot, grazing off of the man's head and sending blood flying. William stops to aim, then fires with his rifle at the man in the shadows. The bullet flies true, and the man slumps over dead.
As a group we rush up the hill. There's a group of nine men on the ridge scrabbling for guns. The sister shouts in a commanding voice for everyone to lay down their arms, and they are all startled enough to pause. Mahoney is the only one with his gun up, and the sister asks about the disappeared family members. He admits to killing wormy, sort of.
He points back at a round contraption, which he refers to as the 'Rattler Dinner Bell'. He points out the rock down below to the women, and relates that a rattler actually very gently picked the wormy-guy up of the rock and retreated down the tunnel. Since then anyone who tries to step off of the rock is eaten.
After some shilly-shallying, we head into the darkness. I'm carrying the box of dynamite. The tunnel is very hard, glistening under our torchlight. There's some sort of clear layer of hardened goo covering the packed earth.
After about 20 minutes of travel, we reach a large open area. In the center is Wormy, mucused to the ground. We quickly begin helping him to escape. I find some homesteaders in a nearby hole, and pull them out with some of George's rope. William investigates some nearby holes, in which Wormy says humanoid wormbabies have lived.
With Wormy freed, we quickly move to the exits. Along the tunnel on the way out, we're ambushed by humanoids infested with worms. The action moves quickly, with George, William, and Emily capping off shots quickly at the creatures. At the sound of their approach I lit a stick of dynamite anticipating giant worms. Horus pulls a great hand, and disintegrates one of the horrid creatures with the power of the manitou. In response, something ghastly surrounds his leg and he slumps to the ground.
"His right leg is possessed"?
The less-massive threat realized, I extinguish the dynamite and join the firefight. Despite their superior tactical position, our crack marksmen are able to drop most of the attacking wormcreatures. With most of the citizens in tow, we climb out of the tunnels. I create a dynamite pack and walk back to seal the tunnel. A lit fuse and a deft flick of the pack, and the massive tunnel is collapsed behind us.
We return to town, pleased with our success. To celebrate, most of us head to the bar. The Sister and George wander across the street to talk to the sheriff, to settle up with him and prepare for our leaving town. We're just getting settled in at the bar for a drink when, with a tremendous crash, a giant worm enters the bar. Out in the street, the women behold the most terrifyingly large worm they've ever seen. At the sight of it, both are rattled to the core. In the bar, weapons are drawn as we prepare for the fight of our lives. The worm's maw opens wide, wrapping some of its mouth tentacles around William's leg. I have wisely kept the dynamite with me, and I pull a stick from my pack. I light the stick and ready to throw the burning blaster down the worm's gullet.
The sweating dynamite explodes. The blast engulfs me, and ignites the entire box of dynamite at my feet. A torrent of shrapnel, fire, glass, and furniture shreds the worm in the bar, and blows out the front wall severely wounding the giant worm in the street. Every citizen in the bar, including wormy and the other survivors, is slain by the huge explosion. By some miracle, everyone in the party survives by virtue of quick reflexes. Just as quickly as they'd come, the worms leave the area or lie dead.
Ahem. Crisis averted.
"You're fired!" - Most of my teammates to me.
The bounty hunters promptly arrest me and put me in a holding cell while they and the rest of the team finish the investigation. It seems Wormy had gotten into the hooch collection of the town hero, the man who owned the large home. They'd been friends and when the man (a noted hunter of the weird) disappeared, wormy assumed he was never coming back. He drank all his tequila, and then looked for more. What he found was a worm-baby in a bottle of zombie juice.
Wormy had been slowly turning into a worm minion, and the creatures treated him like a breeder/child. Creepy.
I am brought to the nearest large town to stand trial ... and there my tale ends.