Deadlands: Riders on the Storm

A Night of Infamy

December 16, 1876

The Paiute Springs Sentinel

Special Edition

December 16, 1876
"Ever Vigilant, A Beacon of Truth!"
$0.05

A Night of Infamy

by Oliver Milhouse

The night of December 15, 1876 will live long in the hearts and minds of the good people of Paiute Springs, Nevada. It was on this night that lives were sacrificed in the defense of our good town in the face of the darkest of evils.

The night was cold. Clouds rolled in quickly and a light snow began to fall around sundown. But this was no ordinary winter storm, for there was an eldritch green glow playing out in the clouds that gathered over the town. People bundled up and hurried to their homes as the sun sank behind the mountains.

It began about an hour after the sun went down. A lone rider thundered down Main Street and stopped in front of the Imperial Saloon, yelling through a hoarse throat, "Come on Paiute Springs! Time to join the party!" According to reports, reports verified by the principles after the event, this was Whiskey Jack O'Donnell—the very same outlaw that terrorized our town, and our Reverend, nearly a year ago. After a brief gun fight with patrons within the Imperial, namely our spitfire Miss Geraldine Keeler and her companion, Mr. Roland Dupre, Whiskey Jack was laid low in the street. 

He was but the opening salvo of a full-on assault of our township by the forces of darkness. The walking dead, dozens of them, began shuffling through the streets and attempting to eat the very flesh off of our bones. Spirits flitted from roof to roof, bringing abject terror with them wherever they touched down. And through it all, at the end of Main Street, stood a lone man in a black duster and matching broad-brimmed hat. He stood without a care in the world, almost as waiting for something—or someone. The menace that emanated from this man was palpable and it was clear he was one hombre with whom one should not trifle.

Townsfolk throughout Paiute Springs defended their homes with honor, fighting off the walking dead with their guns. Some discovered that they would rise again lest one finally injured the creature in the head—so some accurate shooting was indeed needed to finally defeat the menace. 

The new church bell rang as a beacon to call the town to the church as a place of safety. There, Reverend Gage and Doc Fabry ministered to the folks as was their calling. Miss Geraldine Keeler and Mr. Roland Dupre, along with Mr. David Allan, rescued the Putnam family and our launderer, Han Lau, and escorted them to the church. Along the way, they encountered a local man being accosted by the walking dead—they destroyed the creatures but, alas, they could not save Jakob Braun.

Miss Keeler had come upon a scientific method to dispatch the more ethereal of the assailants to the church—regular bullets or knives would only pass through the spirits. However, she discovered that bullets treated with ghost rock could, in fact, be quite effective. She and Mr. Dupre, who also loaded his weapon with this spectral shot, managed to dispatch the spirits—though Mr. Dupre fell in the fighting, preternaturally scared into a heart attack by the foul creatures. In fact, our own Town Marshal, Lila Kimsey, faced off with one of the creatures and came away with a shock of whitened hair.

After the most of the dead had been vanquished, a stern Miss Keeler, accompanied by our own Mayor-Elect Lionel Putnam, stalked down Main Street to a showdown with who the locals now term The Man in Black. I witnessed this extraordinary exchange and am still in awe of the tenacity in the face of such eldritch evil displayed by Miss Keeler and Mayor Putnam. 

Geraldine advanced on man, never blinking, and raised her gun with ghost rock shot and fired—but the Man in Black cloaked himself in shadows and provided not much of a target. Mr. Putnam advanced and fired one barrel of his shotgun toward the man, but, God help him, his hands were shaking so bad it was hard for the stalwart smith to fire straight.  

The Man in Black moved his hand and swarm of eldritch green bolts flew forth, like unholy wasps, and hit Miss Keeler in the gut—but, surprisingly, they did little harm to her. Her duster seemed to repel the bolts nicely. She fired again—the nearly took the Man in Black off his feet as the ghost rock bullet exploded in the man's gut. Still, she marched implacably on and the Man in Black stood his ground. 

Mr. Putnam continued to fire, but to no avail against his shadowy, and frightening, foe. The Man in Black seemed to be toying with Miss Keeler and drew a gleaming Bowie knife from within his duster as he taunted her. The two began a dance of death—Miss Keeler firing at point-blank ranger at the shadow-covered Man while the Man in Black's blade darted out and to cut her. She danced out of the way and turned her duster to protect herself from the onslaught.

Finally, she looked up to see a fourth person enter the duel. This harrowing apparition of a man, with his gaunt, skeletal features and grim face, was a stranger to me. But he lowered a pistol and shot the Man in Black in the back. The Man turned, snarling and unleashed his bolts of doom. They struck the newcomer in the gut and laid him flat on his back, unmoving. The Man in Black turned his attention back to Miss Keeler—which was a mistake. 

Mayor Putnam reloaded his double-barrel and fired into the Man in Black, filling his guts full of shot. The shotgun blew a hole clean through the Man. For his part, the Man in Black looked down at his wounds, almost unbelieving and murmured "It's been so long…" He fell to the ground, dead at last. 

But just to be sure, because times have told us in Paiute Springs that final death is all but certain, she put two more of the ghost rock bullets into the man's skull, exploding it all over her feet.

The walking dead were all dispatched and today the cleaning begins. A cart with five bodies was found just outside of town. According to Miss Keeler, these are likely the corpses of the spirits—she termed them "specters"—that were flitting about town. The corpses have all been hauled to the outskirts of town and burned upon a pyre—-except for the young man that came out to help Miss Keeler in her final showdown. He was taken into the jail by Marshal Kimsey and nursed to health.

This young man, who is apparently our own former deputy, Ethan Jennings, has apparently been afflicted with this "harrowing" that has plagued our lands of late. He has died—but not passed on. But, in light of current events, it is clear that he still considers us all friends. Only time will tell if darkness will overtake him—but, then again, is that not also true of us all?

Funerals will soon begin for the fallen. The town will renew itself—but it must take time to grieve its losses and learn from them. A new year will soon begin and the town will walk into it more somber, more seasoned, and, I pray, more hopeful. 

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