So, the posse gears up for storming the Cracked Pendant opium den to rescue Mad Jim McLean, Colt Light and Law's sister from the clutches of Fong Bei and his Seven Lucky Assassins. While Mike, Law and coach-driver Dolores head around the back, Nathaniel, Steele, Charles and Ingram go through the front door as prospective customers. They get a seat on a table near the curtain'd-off rear area, and cause something of a fuss by asking for food.
As things are about to escalate, twin shotgun blasts from out back announce the beta team storming into the back of the building, surprising three of the Lucky Assassins. Shotgun fire erupts on both sides, but the Assassins have bombs, poison gas and a huckster to even the odds a little. Mike flings some dynamite of his own in to add to the fun.
In the main room, panic erupts (as much as it can amongst opium addicts), and while Ingram directs customers to the exits, Nathaniel sets to blinding the attendant gunmen with his flash apparatus, so that Charles can pick them off. Steele heads for the back room.
Fong Bei shows himself with the last three Assassins, and Law can hold himself back no longer. He charges at his gloating nemesis, who casually knocks him out with his bare hands. The lead Assassin flees into a side corridor with a comrade carrying Law like a sack of potatoes.
The posse engages in a firefight with the Assassins, Steele taking a serious wound even as Law's captor is downed. Nathaniel drags the martial artist into an ajoining room - to the consternation of the cowpoke enjoying sme alone time with one of the ladies - and gives him a dose of a S&R rejuvenating syringe.
Fong Bei holds one-eyed McLean as a body shield, and the posse tries talking him down, as there's no way out. Law comes charging out, swinging wildly with his spear and wounding McLean in the process. Imagining the worthlessness of his hostage, Fong Bei tosses the man to one side and assumes his Shaolin stance.
The villain takes a few bullet wounds that leave him open to a stunning smack from Law's weapon, leaving both enemy and friend unconscious at Law's feet.
The posse hears the calling of Colt from the cellar, but there is no sign of Law's sister...
The rest of the posse runs damage control to cover McLean's escape. They stay to answer the marshal's questions, but organise leaving town on the next coach as soon as they can. Nathaniel does spend some time and money in getting the printers to run counter-propaganda pamphlets.
McLean and Colt find themselves being chased by riders. They try to outdistance them, but the masked leader leaps aboard their coach, demanding to know who they are. McLean answers, fanning his hammer out the window. A ricochet catches Colt, but then the attcker leans in. Sam Bass is very interested in catching the infamous Mad Jim McLean, and he shoots him down.
The rest of the posse arrives in Deadwood without incident, despite the quarter mile of Custer's fortifications ringing the town. There is no sign, of McLean or Colt, but they do catch up with Elizabeth Burns and Dorothy Ingram, peacefully surviving like most of the terrified townsfolk. Charles also hears much drunken nonsense from Calamity Jane. Mike drives the claim-jumpers off his strike and regroups with his comrades, who are overjoyed to hear that a solution to the 'ghost miner' problem.
Nathaniel and Steele pays Charlie Bull a visit in the theater, and the informant tells them of the gathering forces: Sioux, Custer's men, automatons of Hellstromme... He is given hope by the return of the heroes, and promises that he can arrange a meeting with Sitting Bull for them.
In his convalescence, Law lets the rest of the posse know that he's looking for his sister, and his enemy resides in the Cracked Pendant. Nathaniel and Steele head on down to Deadwood's Chinatown to do a little recon, and indulge a little while slinking through the opium den. They note the guards and the girls being used, and stumble out to rejoin the others.
Charles has organised a trip out to see if they can pick up where McLean's carriage went missing. The posse sets out into the badlands, and comes across a coupla dozen Sioux just done killing a cavalry patrol. A chase begins, and while Nathaniel and Steele can barely control their horses in their stupor, a combination of flash guns, smoke pellets and cojones pulls the posse through to escape.
The coach tracks leave the trail, and they find the coach, sans horses, on its side. The coach driver - Dolores - is inside, and relieved to be rescued after a night all alone. She explains that Sam Bass left her alive since he doesn't kill women or children, but he took McLean and Colt with him. Bass's path leads right back toward Deadwood, and so posse - with Dolores in tow - heads right on back.
Once in town, Mike begins with his old contacts among the miners, and the drunk Gideon in particular. He finds him in the bar, but is too slow to stop Law buying the man three drinks. With a little reverse psychology Mike gets Gideon to explain where he was told not to tell ajyone he saw Sam Bass: at the Cracked Pendant!
Meanwhile, McLean wakes up to Colt's screams, and finds Milford Slake looming over him, gloating and now sporting an eyepatch. He has both halves of the map now, but has to pay his old partner back before going to claim it. He carves out McLean's eye, leaving him to be dealt with by his new friends...
Two sessions at once, this time; the first, having two players absent, was more of a travel montage / railroad trip that would have merited little on its own:
So, the posse takes the train from Dodge City to Deadwood via Chicago, through the twelve feet of snow that falls during the Long Winter of 1880/1. It is low-going, with stops at many towns along the way that can last for weeks at a time as they wait for the tracks to be cleared.
In Salina, tensions between rival groups of miners almost break into gang warfare before the posse intervenes to bring the two sides together during a local dance contest.
In Abilene, a Presidents' Day baseball game marks a rare moment of non-violence between Union and Confederate forces.
In Topeka, the posse intervenes to save attendees of the College of the Sisters of Bethany from being kidnapped foe nefarious ends.
In Jayhawk Flats, Colt's gambling losses - in excess of his means - lead to him hiding out under rail lines to evade debt collectors.
In Chicago itself, a Winterfest is an opportune moment for Steele to compose himself, and fully prepare for what is coming.
Milwaukee sees the posse enjoying another festival, and crowning the 'Dairy Queen'.
Minneapolis has McLean finding love - and avoiding a shotgun wedding - much to Colt's chagrin...
In Fargo the posse supplies food to the starving locals, walled up in warm cabins. They aid a man in tracking down a wendigo that was freed from captivity by others of its kind, and are richly rewarded for their efforts.
By the time they reach Bismarck in April 1881, the snows are starting to recede, but the train lines are taken out of action for civilians as the Union military sends trainloads of men to Deadwood to support Custer, and Warlord Kang's Iron Dragon railroad is assisting them. News has been slow to travel during the winter, but it seems that the US government has decided to throw its support behind the rogue officer and his occupying force. A number of propaganda pamphlets are extolling his virtues while demonising the 'savage redskins'.
While Nathaniel looks into who is behind these scurrilous rumours, McLean takes Mike - whose mining experience surely qualifies him to be almost as knowledgeable about demolitions - to check out the local bridge. It may come to blowing it up to prevent soldiers from passing through...
Charles instead listens for rumours, meeting a man recently arrived from Deadwood. He tells a tale of how his friends were all grabbed from him one night as they drunkenly stumbled past a hardware store. The survivor was lucky to escape, but he can never forget the purple-dyed skin of his assailants, not the reeking stench they gave off. Charles recognises the colour and scent of Rattler blood from the description...
Law goes wandring through Bismarck's seedy Chinatown for some more clues regarding his sister and her kidnapper, Fong Bei. A wizened noodle salesman - upon learning his name and also being offered ten dollars - takes him out back to explain more. Law learns that Fong Bei is willing to pay big for his capture, and the old man's son begins beating on him with his bare hands.
Colt, left to his own ends with McLean away, happens to wander past, and runs in with his lasso to try and pry the martial artist off his friend. But the true saviour is Ingram, shopping through Chinatown for cooking ingredients. Armed with a flash gun, he manages to blind both attackers, and the team drags them off to interrogate them while Law recovers from the wounds he suffered.
Securing a bargain to let them live if they leave and son't inform his enemy, Law learns that Fong Bei and his Seven Lucky Assassins generally hang their hats in a Deadwood establishment called the Cracked Pendant, and Law's sister will probably be there too. The old man and his son are then packed onto a stage, pointed East and sent on their way, Law handing over a wad of cash to take them as far away as possible. At the town limits, the young man shouts out a promise of vengeance.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel has been poking into the newssheet distributors, finding the printer that supplies them and learning that one Chestwick T Perriwinkle has been putting things into production. The printers, when pressed, are confused that they don't remember him ever paying them for their services...
Fearing some supernatural agency, Nathaniel meets up with Mike and McLean once they get back into town, and they plan to ambush Perriwinkle once he stops at the printer's again. When confronted and told to stop, the smartly-dressed man takes offence, and asks the printers to throw the interlopers into the monstrous printing press itself. They calmly comply.
McLean fumbles with his flash gun to blind a pair of printers, and Perriwinkle kindly asks him to shoot Nathaniel in the head as he departs. Nathaniel's Hunting Grounds-souvenir Brock Payne hat is shot off his head while he struggles with the printers, and Mike manages to shotgun one of the reporter's attackers in the shoulder before he is hoisted over the railing into the manglers of the mighty machine.
Nathaniel tears himself free from the men wrestling with him and ducks to avoid McLean's bullets as he dashes to the big red emergency stop button and hits it. As the steam engine chugs quiet the printers and McLean come to their senses, and the posse ponders what to do next.
McLean gathers Colt and tracks Perriwnkle to his abode above a fishmonger's, watching as the man is now accompanied by two burly gunslingers. The guards notice the two hiding across the street, and hasten to obey Perriwnkle's order to 'kill them'.
McLean wastes no time, fanning the entire contents of his pistol into the speaker as Colt shotguns one of the gunmen. The other gut-shoots McLean, but goes down for his trouble.
With a sticky mess left of Perriwinkle and plenty witnesses, McLean and Colt high-tail it out of town - commandeering a stagecoach that he'd kept on retainer for once he'd blown the bridge.
As the marshal is called and the rest of the posse either face-palms or gets to gathering incriminating evidence from McLean's hotel room, Nathaniel breaks into Perriwinkle's room to find any evidence of wrongdoing. There are no orders from higher powers, but to an observant reporter many of the stories being written up are outright lis or exaggerations. Taking a little of his Confederate currency, Nathaniel plants a little 'evidence' that the man may have been working against Union interests and takes his leave...
While the rest of the posse rests to count the fallen, Charles rushes after Needham. Despite his wounds, the maniac has managed to outdistance the hunter. Once outside the courthouse, he meets a worried looking Agent Pedersen, who lets him know that he discharged the entirety of his gatling ammo at the man, who fled into the night. With some rough indication of direction, Charles heads off to track his quarry.
In the Mason temple, Bear On The Wind is dead, but McLean and Nathaniel turn out to still breath. Law tends to wounds and after a few minutes Steele announces that it's time to set out in pursuit. They too pass Pedersen, who points the direction and informs them that he'll set to getting a cleaner squad to tidy things up.
The posse re-unite within sight of the old Stiles farmstead, the trail of blood-spattered shoe-prints no problem to track. There is a light on in the farmhouse, and they split up to try and corner Needham by a team blocking both front and rear exits.
On his way to the back door, McLean opens up the barn, and sees Needham re-fuelling Stiles' steam wagon. With no hesitation, he lights and flings several sticks of dynamite, Colt slamming the doors shut.
Nathaniel heads upstairs in the farmhouse to get a better angle for a shot of the ensuing inferno, while the others come running to help McLean. Colt opens the door to check if anyone survived, and Needham swings down from above the barn's transom. He puts McLean down and bleeding within seconds, and then Law and Steele are on him with blades, Charles covering with his elephant gun.
Stunned by the high-calibre rounds, Needham is unable to defend himself from the onslaught, and Law slices him so deeply that he passes out. They kick the straight razor from his hand and a strange transformation takes place.
Inside the farmhouse, Nathaniel has heard a commotion from one of bedrooms, and finds Tolliver tied up next to a strange, bearded man. He frees his friend and interrogates the other captive, who identifies himself as Mike, a miner from Deadwood. Nathaniel is quite stern in interrogating him, Mike explaining that the ghost miners have struck again and he came south to look for the heroes that helped fight them off before. When Tolliver backs up the man's story that he was grabbed by Needham and taken prisoner, Nathaniel unties him.
The trio head outside to see that the others have tied up Needham, who has noticeably become a lot less healthy looking, his body less fit and some of the damage he'd sustained over the course of the fight showing themselves. The posse threw him in a room under constant watch while they went to sleep to sort things out in the morning.
The next day, Needham is recovering from being beaten by Colt for daring to hurt McLean (who's still alive, btw), but more than happy to answer questions. He admits to the murders, all the killings, but claims that it was the razor that made him do it. The posse need to give it back to him, as only he can keep it safe!
The posse laugh off any attempt to let him free or give him his weapon, but they do wonder where the razor ended up. McLean sheepishly admits to having pocketed it, and they break the damned thing pretty quickly, before wondering what to do about Needham.
Stiles stumbles in, risen from the dead and with his throat still open, demanding that they kill his murderer. They talk him down, insisting that it's better that he face justice. As they talk more over breakfast - Steele's mainly whiskey as he tries to get over not only seeing the dead rise, but everyone else's rather nonchalent reaction to same - one of Pedersen's men in black rides up to inform them of how well things are going in the covering-up-a-slaughter department.
The posse hash out options with the Agent, turning over Needham on the agreement that Stiles' testimony - wounded 'to the point of death' defending himself from the killer - will be enough to seal the killer's fate. The Agency has a new judge headed to town , and the word of a beloved town hero will surely make the case a done deal. Regarding the Masons, mention of the organisation will be covered up, but the cultists will be exposed as harmless until the fell under the influence of Needham, being killed in a cave-in in their lair. The two surviving Masons are smart enough to play along with the Agency's plan.
The posse stays in Dodge to see much of the fallout, getting to know Mike at the same time. Since they're heading back to Deadwood anyway, they agree to accompany him, although the rather ridiculous amounts of snowfall recently may make the train journey somewhat longer than it may otherwise have been...
Violence erupts as the posse burst into the Freemasons' temple, with the mayor shouting for the interlopers to be killed. Several burly brethren jump forward with masonry tools, but Law and Bear meet them head on and tear their way through.
That buys time for the lesser brethren to rab some guns and open fire, leading to a firefight. All shouts from Steele for the 'heathens' to surrender are ignored. Charles shouts for Needham to show himself, but there is no sign of the madman. He makes up for this by gunning down the town judge as he rushes forward.
The mayor himself shouts for Needham, for assistance now that the posse have shown their faces as promised. Then he spots the flash of a camera, as Nathaniel takes some evidence of the eerie rituals going on, and takes offence. The cult leader gestures, and the stones of the temple strike the camera from the reporter's hand - clearly he does have some measure of magical power.
Colt and McLean are providing covering fire from near the doorway, fanning bullets into the crowds of cultists gathered about the seating. Behind them Needham strides in, promising that no one will get out alive. At his command, things tear themselves free from beneath the bleachers, severed heads scuttling along on fingers sewn to their necks. Both posse and masons strive to climb to higher ground before they are dragged down by the abominations. Nathaniel is dragged down alongside several cultists, the masons having their heads crushed and eaten.
The reporter is not killed immediately, as Needham moves forward, announcing that he will be taking back the boots he lost. McLean bars his path, but a slash or two of his straight razor drops the gunman to the ground with bleeding throat. Colt and Charles blast away at the neatly-dressed man, but he steps casually through their bullets, unharmed. He approaches Nathaniel's unconscious form.
Bearrips his way free from the cultists that were struggling to hold him down and runs to oppose Needham, while Law barely escapes the teeth of the crawling teeth with his skin. The black-clad Agency man that had helped the posse enter the courthouse enters the temple, having been drawn by gunfire. After his gatling pistol is emptied, he charges Needham with his bowie knife.
Taking advantage of the confusion, the mayor runs through the door. He doesn't go unnoticed, and Charles gives pursuit, shouting for the man to stop or be shot. He refuses, and takes a bullet to the leg. The mayor turns, lashing out with his magic to smack the Englishman with the stone door, and takes the next bullet through the heart.
The Agent finds that his blade draws blood from Needham where bullets had failed, and has time to shout it to the posse. Bear charges gleefully in, his claws sweeping into Needham but also crushing the agent's body to death. Law and Steele join in the melee, the former with a spear and the latter with bayonet fixed to his rifle. They prod and slice the killer, who loses some of his calm upon finding that they can hurt him.
Needham slashes Bear across the throat, leaving him bleeding out on the floor. He stumbles through the door, barging past and slashing at Charles as he begins to run at an inhuman speed.
Colt lassoes a crawling head that was intent on devouring Steele, and the posse brings the room under control, a remaining pair of cultists surrendering as they blast apart the heads. Is there still time to catch Needham?
Stiles' throat has been slashed by a thin blade, his tongue torn through the new orifice. The posse search around for any sign of his killer, since the body is fairly fresh. Charles finds signs that a dozen or so people were present before leaving, but the tracks don't go for too far toward town before petering out.
Inside Stiles' house, the bookshelves have been ransacked, tomes tossed to the ground in some search. Nathaniel - who spent a good time here during his stay in Dodge - can verify that nothing is missing. As they split up to check the rooms quicker, Bear finds someone hiding in the kitchen cupboard, a tiny old man that he drags out to see the others.
Everyone else can identify Tolliver, the old man from the Dodge bridge whom they'd gotten a medal for bravery. He explains that he'd been called over like them to meet with Stiles about something called the 'all-seeing eye', but saw a group of men approach him and chose to hide out of cowardice.
All but one wore sacks over their heads to hide their identities, the last being a neat dude dressed like he came from Back East, with neat little glasses. The posse reconise all too well the description of Needham, the killer whose handiwork they've encountered before in Deadwood and Denver.
Needham was dismissive of Stiles, telling him he was too late to interfere before killing him with his straight razor. His colleagues briefly searched the house, but Needham called them off, saying that no-one would be able to stop them before the next night.
The posse check out the barn where Stiles' custom wagon still sits, under tarpaulin. His more personal collection of books is with his workbench, untouched by any interlopers. Charles and Nathaniel spend some time going through them while the others head to Dodge to see if they can pick up Needham's trail.
They stop off to deposit their weaponry with the marshal, they tell him of the murder and he agrees to get a few deputies to look into the situation. Steele warns him against overconfidence, but the marshal waves that worry away.
At the Dodge House Hotel, the night manager does not recall any stranger of Needham's description, and is unwilling to let them through with McLean's crazed ramblings. Steele's quiet decorum and respect for the law gets them a room number, and the information that the man checked out earloier that evening. They head upstairs.
Cleaner's gear is propped up outside the room but there's no answer to a knock. They get the night manager to let them in, to find a maid missing her hands and head. The night manager is as shocked as they are, and can just about confirm that that is one of their cleaners. The posse can confirm that it's Needham's handiwork.
At the Stiles place, they search through the books of 18th century English history, finding that he had been investigating immigrants to America, and secret societies they brought with them. The 'all-seeing eye' is the symbol of the Freemasons, and they are rumoured to have infiltrated all aspects of American government. Being masons, they are interested in building contruction and supposedly mark their constructions with the eye within a triangle symbol. A bookmark in one of the volumes is the tattered scrap of a local paper with a photo of Needham on it.
The entire posse stays at the Dodge House, with plans to track down Needham in the morning. Charles however, neglects to check his weapons in with the marshal, and at breakfast is confronted by some deputies. He demands to see the marshal, and Deger comes to see him to ask for his guns personally. Charles explains how he feels he is in danger from the killer ar large, and doesn't feel safe with the current law enforcement officials. With the encouragement of the rest of the posse, he reluctantly hands over most of his firepower.
Nathaniel heads to the Dodge City Times Offices to trawl through their back issues, while the others go for an expedition around town, checking out all the more important stone-worked buildings in town for mason marks.
The reporter uncovers the story that featured the picture of Needham, but he is not the focus, merely in the background of many ground-breaking ceremonies when Dodge City rose from being a mere cowtown to a proper city. He is credited as a consultant that helped the city elders place buildings around the area, especially the courthouse, built over a series of natural caves which had previously been used by bandits.
The others have identified the courthouse by the eyes watching from every angle, and rush back, the two groups meeting at the halfway point. They need help if they're going to storm the stronghold of the law in Dodge City, but rather than turn to Marshal Deger they head to the Pendulum Publishing House.
'Mister' Pedersen, legitimate cattleman, greets them coldly, and informs them that Ranger 'Bigfoot' has moved on with is business; Pedersen had been cheering up until the posse turned up on his doorstep. When informed of the goings-on, including the serial killer at large, he agrees to help them get into the courthouse that night, providing a wagon to conceal their weapons, and an agent with a lockpick to get them in quietly.
That's just what happens. The posse moves through to Judge Moreland's office, where there is a secret trapdoor as well as a mason symbol on his desk. They creep down into the darkness, following the spund of chanting. Torchlight leads to a massive set of double doors, and Bear and Law heave the stones open easily, revealing a mass of cowled figures chanting before an altar. The voice of Mayor Robert Wright rings out, for the masons to kill the interlopers!
The posse continues an investigation into the freak show. They discuss with Billy Button - the resident midget, only too happy to talk if free drinks are involved - the current state of the show, and who might take over now that Chestnutt is dead.
Billy informs them that Olga the bearded lady was always saying how she would make a better 'step right up'-spieler, even pointing out her far more impressive and authoritative beard. Taking this under advisement, Olga is their next interrogation, although upon finding her drunk they learn that she in fact pined for Chestnutt while he was alive, and is missing him terribly now that he's gone.
With the smell of formaldehyde near the scene of the murder, they investigate the great jars containing the severed hand and head in the exhibit, but find no evidence of tampering - although the lids are freely loose.
With Gertrude the albino planning to go solo, and Albion the dog-faced boy insisting that he's the true heir to the Black River Railroad fortune, the future of the show seems in doubt. Each of the performers individually asks the posse to buy the head and hand from them, and asking each about how many hands it has gone through before them gives them the idea that perhaps misfortune falls on whomever holds the exhibit.
Asking Olga what they plan on doing with the body, she insists that being stuffed and mounted as a new exhibit would be what Chestnutt would want. They agree to arrange this for her, and persuade her that one final show would also be appropriate. Olga will take on the central role, and Bear agrees to take part as a strong man.
Why? The posse hopes to lure out the killer. As they progress through the show that night, Nathaniel bursts from the crowd, wearing clothes and moutache borrowed from Chestnutt, announcing that he is alive after all, and that the killer failed!
This prompts the killer to snarl that it can fix that, and the hand and head push through from behind the curtain, bound together as one being by a humanoid silhouette. The abomination fires on 'Chestnutt', and the assembled crowd scatters. The posse return fire, including McLean firing his flash gun into the fray.
Bullets pass through the shadow mass, but the head and hand bleed scream like anything else, and after they've fallen - the shadow dissippated - Law takes them away to be burned.
Nathaniel - still in Chestnutt guise - turns to the shocked freaks, who are still blinking in the light. He tells them that he is indeed dead, but came back to strike down his killer. He implores them to keep the show going, in his memory. And, as one last parting word, he always loved Olga.
The reporter dashes off quickly, returning sans disguise to join the incredulity of everyone gathered as the freaks announce that a miracle has occurred!
The following day, the freaks set off with new purpose, touring with the stuffed body of the holy Chestnutt, to bring hope to the Weird West! The posse wishes them well, and in time sets off one the next stage of their journey to Deadwood, leaving Wichita for Kansas City.
No sooner have they arrived, than Nathaniel is handed a telegram, asking him to return to Dodge City to help Henry Stiles - former Stagecoach Robber - with a problem.
The posse heads there directly, and Stiles is happy to see them. He's been accepted by the townsfolk now, helping solve many crimes around Dodge. But this latest one has some creepy overtones: a large number of cattle being drained of blood over the last few weeks. He suggests they go and check out the scene of the latest slaughter to see if they can get any clues, to meet him at his ranch house that evening.
It's been a few days since the killing, but scraps of cow-hide and dashes of blood hang from a tree. Questioned cowboys shrug and say it must be chupacabras or other critters, as not too many animals have been taken, and only ever drained of blood. Charles' invesiagtion of the scene turns up signs of many people gathered around the scene, and taking to a cart. With the events happening regularly, clearly some people are up to no good.
The posse head to Stiles' ranch to meet with him, seeing a red neckerchief'd figure rocking on a chair on the porch. Inspection through a scope shows the kerchief to be stained by blood, and as they rush over they raise the hat from the figure's face to find Stiles, throat slashed bloodily open.
With three dead deputies and a gooifyed marshal, the posse decides to play it cool. While Law and Bear clean the blood off themselves, the others stall the townsfolk that have come to investigate. Townsfolk dressed in black, having been following the procession for the funeral of the first of the dead deputies.
The mayor himself arrives accompanied by a pair of Black River Railroad employees, there to ensure his safety in the wake of the recent gunfire. The posse begins their daring plan to save themselves: lying their asses off. Putting the blame for the triple murder on the marshal, they confide in Mayor Teller that the lawman had been replaced by a plantpodperson! The worried town official buys it, and wonders what to do!
Given the wite goop that the notmarshal exploded into, the posse determines that they bleed that, not blood, and so a method of determining who is human and who isn't is pricking them with a needle. Law takes far too much enthusiasm in doing this, finding that everyone present is fine.
With the list of names showing the members of the town council crossed off, the posse convinces the mayor that he should call an emergency meeting - citing the recent murders as sufficient cause - there to accost the definite plantpodpeople. Once they'd been dealt with, it would be a simple matter to subject the rest of the town to tests to root out any stragllers! Black River Railroad agrees that this is a good plan, although McLean seems to favour babbling paranoia to the people of the town and letting nature take its course...
Waiting in the town hall meeting room, the posse find only three council members show up. They kill two of them - a relief that they turn out to be monsters - and take the third captive thatks to Steele's S&R electric knife, although it refuses to talk. They have no threat that could persuade it to talk, and they're forced to kill it too.
The council woman that didn't show was the one that Nathaniel interviewed, and so the posse scoots over to her house, only to find it abandoned. They Follow a trail to the marshal's house, and discover in the cellar the woman packing a case full of alchemical apparatus, overseen by another, goggle-wearing woman, clearly in a rush to leave town. The latter surrenders quickly once she sees the trouble that has come for her, and does not resist as she's marched back to jail. The plantpodperson is quietly splattered by Bear once they've left.
The woman introduces herself as Miss Ambrose, a performer of good deeds in replacing messy humanity with calm and rational plantpodpeople. With the logo of Doktor Hellstromme on her packing case they could draw some conclusions about her funding source...
In the interim week while they sort out elections for a new lawman, Steele serves as justice, with a group of Black River Railroad staff as underlings. He doesn't trust them as far as he can throw them, yet they do provide the manpower required to prove that the population of Coffeyville is clear.
The posse wires Captain Crowne to take care of their captive. She arrives in due course, proud of being proved right on the Tonkawa case and clearing her name. Charles and Ingram arrange a surprise romantic meal for Crowne and Steele, and while they mainly talk over their own views on jutice, there is a tinge of regret as she has to leave and take Ambrose away.
The posse's own departure is preceded by their buying plenty of warm furs to see them through the horrible winter that is settling over the northern climes. First stop on the way to Deadwood is Wichita, where they take in a freak show in the town square, seeing a dog-faced boy, a bearded lady, a juggling midget, an albino woman with long fingernails and the severed hand and head of notorious outlaws.
In the morning, the posse find that the carnival barker has been slain, and are asked to investigate by the dog-faced boy. They find the man killed in his own wagon, supposedly by his own gun, and also that 'he' was actually a 'she' with a false moustache! They detect the smell of formaldehyde around the body, but nothing was stolen, and all the records and money appear to be in order.
The first of the freaks that they question is the albino 'witch', and as well as reading Steele's fortune she gives her theory: the bounty hunter responsible for severing the head and hand has come back for his trophies!
The cannibals descend en masse upon the posse, but our heroes split up, some providing covering fire while others run forward to rescue the menu, Colt sees to the unconscious McLean and Captain Crowne carries off her prisoner, Walks In Two Worlds.
They manage to escape with all their rescues thrown on back of their horses before the full mass of the cannibal war party mobilises, and make a three day hard ride back to safety with the monsters chasing them the whole way.
On the way, they learn that the prisoners had been taken from the town of Coffeyville, and the posse swears to take them back there once they've taken care of business. That business involves returning to Fort Washita, there to recruit a mixed force of Confederate soldiers and Comanche warriors, alongside whom they return to Quivera, to put the whole cannibal business to rest.
The united force kills all the cannibals they find, the posse right amongst them in the fight, aiding the battle plans or documenting the event, as each of their talents commends. The war party is fully destroyed, but none of the posse thinks to look for the first prisoner they had taken, who they left behind in their flight and never found again, now Last Son of the Cannibal Tonkawa...
Crowne sticks with the Washita to take her prisoner on to face justice in Texas, though she'll be happy to help our posse in the future. So they head on - McLean suitably recovered under Colt's tender care - to Coffeyville, from there to begin their journey north to Deadwood, to warn the Sioux.
Coffeyville has a magnificent array of shops available, and the posse spends a considerable time browsing and buying, many items from Smith & Robards available. Law and Steele are accosted by local law however, and taken back to the town jail. The marshal is bague about the charges they face, citing laws that don't make any sense - about a fine for first-time foreign visitors, and breaking the rule about wearing red jackets in a place of business. The pair refuse to step into the cells - where the marshal assures them that everything will be sorted out calmly - and Law is grabbed by deputies while Steele shoots the pistol out of the marshal's hand.
At this, a deputy pulls a gun on Law, but the martial artist deflects the bullet back at him with steel fan, killing him. The two escape in the confusion, and decide to lie low for a little while now that they're accused of a genuine crime.
The rest of the posse do some investiagtion work, and find that a lot of weird laws have been passed recently, and anumber of members of the town council were arrested on trivial charges, all becoming very supportive afterwards. Nathaniel meets with one of them, and she complies merrily with his questions, saying that the marshal is a good man. Nathaniel feels a little sleepy after drinking her tea, but with the looming form of Bear On The Wind to help him walk out, he is fine soon after.
Charles meets with the mayor himself, finding him bumbling but approving of the marshal, while noting that the lawman did show a change in is behaviour at the time the new laws began to be introduced.
Deciding to confront the problem head on, the whole posse meets at a saloon, and the marshal and his deputies stroll in to arrest the criminals. With the jail empty, Nathaniel scoots over to have a look around, finding a scrap of paper with town council names crossed out, the mayor next on the list.
Bear and Law slaughter the marshal's deputies, but the lawman calmly continues to read the rights to the posse, sitting down. Nathaniel opens a hidden trapdoor under the jail finding a pair of giant pea pods, which he gingerly touches, only for a clammy green hand to burst forth and grab him.
Steele moves forward to cuff the marshal, but the man turns his head - one hundred and eighty degrees - and gets shot for his trouble. White goo showers everywhere.
Nathaniel dashes away from the humanoid, slamming the trapdoor closed on its arm as it chases him up, and everyone wonders what's going on. Not least of all, the fine folks at Coffeyville's Black River Railroad depot, as their enforcers recognise the mountie and martial artist on the wanted posters...
The posse and the Tonkawa scouts exchange a few pleasantries across the dim and dingy swamp, neither side wishing to let the other know yet that they were planning on murdering the other. In the posse's case, this coincides with Law sneaking close so that he can chop people up with Jordrava's tomahawk.
The Tonkawa, with their bows, are little match for the posse. Our heroes take one alive, and from him they learn that there are around a hundred tribesmen in Walks In Two Worlds' war party, and they're all crazed cannibals. Not good.
Following the severed head guide as well as retracing the patrol's steps, the posse comes across the war party's home, numerous tipis surrounding a central lodge, more patrols slinking through the trees around the area, and numerous roups gathered around campfires.
With a swift headcount through a telescope, they confirm the captive's estimation, and then gag him beofre he can draw too much attention. The posse discusses going back to get aid from the local authorities, but when a half-dozen writhing prisoners are brought out tied to stakes, Steele takes up his rifle and starts shooting.
The cannibals come running for the source of the disturbance, and the posse are soon surrounded. To one side, Steele and Crowne take cover from an overwhelming barrage of arrows. To the other, Law is pinned in place by numerous natives far more skilled with the war club than he is. Between them, the others provide covering fire and watch as yet more cannibals approach from the camp.
Bear On The Wind rushes to aid the ranger and the mountie, his bare fists crushing skulls alongside Steele's bayonet, but the wild swings of this grim servant of death smack the mountie around as well...
Nathaniel and McLean wade in with their flash guns, blinding enough cannibals to leave them easy pickings for being shot by Charles, Ingram and Colt. Then the decadent form of Walks In Two Worlds himself bursts throught the doors of the lodge, rallying his troops and fanning the hammer of his pistol into our heroes. Mclean goes down. Charles is flanked by a pair of cannibals. Law and Nathaniel are trapped in the midst of a mob of blinded warriors. Despite the risk, Steele fights alongside Bear. Colt wildly fires his gun as Walks - shrugging off bullets - jumps at Crowne, crowing about how ranger flesh is the tastiest...
A gunshot rings out, and Walks In Two Worlds topples unconscious from Charles' bullet, the battlefield pausing for a moment -