Of Gog and Magog

October 4, 1879
Creepy Crawly

From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
October 4, 1879
In the Vicinity of Scully, California. Weather continued fair but turning to chill.

[The following entry is written in a CSA military code Garret once used to pass scouting messages. Translatable by anyone with the knowledge of that particular cipher, but not readable at a glance.]

If I never in my natural life see another tarantula it will be too soon. We bedded down for the night at the inn above Scully’s main saloon, myself and Marcus taking one room, and leaving the other to Mr. LeFeau and Carter. Ben betook himself to sleep in the scrub outside town as he usually does. Marcus being a snorer, and myself not being ready to retire, I went to ease my boredom with Ben under the stars for a bit.

We passed the time in our usual manner, and then made to sleep, as it was a nice night and I saw no need to disturb Marcus by returning to the saloon. We had shut our eyes when Ben suddenly lit up, alarmed, for something was creeping on his leg. Before he had reckoned what it was, a spider nearly a hand-span big sank its poisonous fangs into Ben’s flesh, which pained him greatly and made him writhe and twitch. My first effort to knock it loose were useless, but after a scuffle I managed to dash it away into the recesses of Ben’s tent.

I pulled him free of the tent so the vermin could not reattach, but in the cold air a dreadful sensation took us both, as hundreds of the spider’s deadly offspring swarmed over our skins. Before I could protest, Ben took hold of me like I was no more than a sack of wheat and slung me over his shoulder. He then raced into town with a speed to rival a steam engine. It took my breath clean away, but it also freed us of the pestilence , as the spiderlets were flung off us by the rushing of the wind from his running.

He didn’t stop until we were through the saloon doors, this being a bit of a consternation, for in plain fact neither Ben nor myself had on one stitch of clothing between us. My boots, my gun, my knives, and all my garments, and Ben’s as well, were still within his tent, and likely spider-riddled.

There seemed to be some dust up in progress at the saloon, which our untimely arrival interrupted, possibly to the benefit of the peace of the town of Scully. Carter and Mr. LeFeau were standing either side of the saloon doors, and there was a man inside bleeding from a shot arm, and another several showing fresh blood and bruises where fists and smellers had collided.

The saloon’s denizens took a long look at Ben and myself, and turned back to happier pursuits. Carter, too, seemed to take no more than casual notice of our state. He asked what was the reason for our haste and undress, but seemed satisfied when I said we’d shed our things in an effort to rid ourselves of the spiders.

LeFeau, however, is another matter. He gave me a shrewd look, remarked we seemed unusually sweaty from such little exercise, and made some comment about a mark he could see where Ben’s hand had been upon my hip. I returned his interest with as cold and threatening a stare as I could muster under the circumstances, and he let it drop, but my unease with the man, which was already considerable, has jumped a hundred fold.

We beat haste up to Marcus’s room, and Marcus, bless him, seemed to take it as nothing out of the ordinary that Ben and I were naked as the day we were born. He was far more interested in returning to sleep than in probing the reasons for our undress. We both slept the rest of the night in his room, and went out at dawn to retrieve our things.

The spiders were gone, leaving no trace.

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October 3, 1879
Stage robbed!

From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
October 3, 1879
In the Vicinity of Scully, California. Weather cooler.

In the midst of settling the matter of the displaced Coloreds from the encampment, Marcus received a telegram from Scully saying the stagecoach, with gold bound for Alder Creek’s bank, had been robbed.

A Mr. LeFeau, private security man for the bank, had arrived that very morning to confer with Mr. Jonathan Barker, the Boston banker from Fiduciary Holdings and Trust, and so we found ourselves pressed to find the missing stage and stolen gold. We tried to wire back to Scully for further details, but Leonard Bolton, who runs the telegraph in addition to being unelected Mayor, said the lines had just gone down, probably cut by Indians.

Having no decent alternatives, Marcus, myself, Ben, Carter, and Mr. LeFeau set out for Scully ourselves to see if we could find more insight into this matter.

Mr. LeFeau gives me an uncomfortable feeling. He has a hybrid accent—half Cajun, half English—and dresses like a big city undertaker. He sits a horse like one, too, and I am sure his backside was red by the time we arrived in Scully. There is something shifty about his eyes, and he carries himself like a man accustomed to getting his own way. I can’t see a weapon on him, which strikes me as odd for a security man. I have to presume if the bank hired him to protect their gold, they knew what they were doing, but I can’t say the man puts me at my ease.

We are bedding for the night here, with the intention of picking up the trail of the man who sent the telegram on first light, for there are inconsistencies in the story we have unearthed so far, not least of which being that the man who gave the report was treated for gunshot but claims the stage was robbed by Indians, a patent falsehood unless they were apostate Indians. Even Ben, who is only half blood, will use no firearms.

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October 2, 1879
Night Foxes

From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
October 2, 1879
In the Vicinity of Alder Creek, California. Weather fair and dry, high clouds.

Marcus has made two more deputies. Old Seth, an Alder Creek man, was made deputy principally for the fact that his hindquarters never leave the chair in the Jailhouse. It’s either the most brilliant or the stupidest move the Law has ever made, but my heart says Seth’s loyal to the right principles and will uphold the peace in Alder Creek if it needs upholding.

We’ve also deputized Mrs. Stevie Portridge, a Negro woman, married to a white man by the name of Jeb Portridge, who was living in a shanty town up-creek. She’s a shootist of much repute, to hear young Carter Burwell tell it. He came into town to apprentice himself to her, and she’s clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Mr. Portridge is dying of the Consumption, and Carter convinced Mrs. Portridge to bring the poor fellow in to see if Kiah could lay hands on and cure him, but Kiah says the Lord’s will has put Mr. Portridge’s redemption beyond the reach of prayer. He is in the mean while installed in the Parsonage, with his wife nearby and a girl from the encampment to serve as nursemaid, whereby he can be well looked after as he contemplates his final days.

Leonard Bolton, our putative Mayor of Alder Creek, voiced his concern that the Coloreds not be allowed into town, owing, he said, to their contagion. His and some other commentary we heard put Marcus and myself both in mind of some of the old breed of folk who still consider the Negro and the Indian to be more animal than human, but this is a Modern Age, and Jefferson Davis himself freed the slaves almost fifteen years ago, so if that is what this town is about, then Alder Creek is in dire need of a change of heart.

Marcus and I took a delegation up to see what the shanty town was about, and whether there was indeed rampant Consumption amongst them. We found a population of Coloreds living in poverty, some few sick indeed with Consumption and other ails, but many well. While we were there, the camp was attacked in the night by what we first took for common hooligans. In fact the perpetrators were the ‘Night Foxes’ of the story we heard at the Henharp Ranch, and though it looked like a common lynching at first, what we saw that night was pure Devilry.

They shot at us even after we identified ourselves as the Law, and they set the entire encampment ablaze. Several of the Negroes were killed, and others gravely wounded. We returned fire and felled some of the attackers, but one rose in the air on his mount, and when we had nearly brought him down with gunfire, the rider opened a pit into the sulfurous deeps and descended where we could not give chase.

The horse fell to earth, and it was indeed a corrupted creature, with wings like a bat’s sprouting from its withers. It died of a broken neck from its fall, though would have likely died of the gunshots in it if it had survived the plummet. When we burned its corpse, it gave a stench fouler than the most putrid of rotting dead.

Marcus and I, as Agents of the Law, moved the refugees in haste into the abandoned hotel in Alder Creek, taking it by Right of Eminent Domain to secure the public welfare. The dead were buried in the church yard to prevent their corpses from walking again. Only the Coloreds free from illness shall engage in commerce in town, and the sick among them shall remain confined to the hotel, with Deputy Portridge to safeguard the agreement, this to satisfy the townsfolk and keep the peace.

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September 29, 1879
Garret's Cadre

From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
September 29, 1879
In the Vicinity of Alder Creek, California. Weather hazy, but not oppressive.

I haven’t been accustomed to writing in some while, but it seems prudent to set these things down where they can trouble no man, but prove a record one day should the need arise.

There is too much to tell in the main, but the upshot is I have reunited with Sgt. Marcus Hewett, late of the 18th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Last I saw the man was in Jefferson, Missouri, back some seven years, and had not thought of him since but to down a shot in his honor when I was drinking to my absent comrades in arms. I don’t like to admit it, but I had assumed he had, like many of the men I last saw in that environs, perished at Union hands. But not a month ago he turned up in Alder Creek, very soon after I did, and I was glad of it, for the doings in the town were evil and Marcus is a damn fine shot and as brave a man as the South ever bred.

Alder Creek being without Law, Marcus and I have stepped into the void, him as Sheriff and I as Deputy. That might seem on its face a backwards standing, as I outrank him considerable as a soldier, but in truth he’s the kind of sergeant lesser men want to follow, whereas I’m an officer in name alone, without regiment under me as an Irregular Scout.

He’s a broad, big-chested man, built to earn respect, and I’m made more on a slender and unremarkable style, so it stands to reason him taking the name of Sheriff, being the kind of man to inspire confidence and fear in equal measure.

We’ve run into so many unnatural and fetid doings out here I can’t recount them all, but in the month Marcus and I have been here, there are some that have become, for want of a better word, friends.

There’s Reverend Hezekiah Adams, whom we all call Kiah. He’s been Alder Creek’s preacher and judge for as long as any hereabouts seem to remember. I think he’s Baptist, though he has more in common with John of that name than any pastor I ever heard teaching the Word of the Lord in a pulpit. If I found him eating locusts and honey, I’d not be surprised. He’s bearded and half-toothless, with a gunny sack for a garment and vermin nesting in his long hair, and the locals mostly treat him like a harmless old coot, but the man can call down the Almighty like a true prophet. More than once he’s laid hands on and healed me of an injury I was sure would cripple me, and he saved Marcus from an ugly death by festering gunshot, as well as some others I’ve witnessed. There’s more to Kiah’s story, which I may tell when I have discerned it more clearly and have time and space to set it down.

Also in our cadre is an Easterner who goes by the name of Doc Knuckles. He’s a bit of a dandy, and Kiah thinks he’s a Jew, though I’m not sure how you can tell that of a man by looking. Doc is his stage name, not for any actual medical degree, which is a use to him as he pedals a tonic the vapors of which alone can blister the hair from a man’s nostrils. Whatever the curative powers of his nostrum, it will undoubtedly ease a man’s DTs, if that’s what ails him, and it burns a trick in a pinch. The Doc’s a solid man, and generous with his wares, though he keeps to himself as much as he lets on, so I don’t feel I’ve had a fair measure of his character yet. But he’s stood up for me and mine, so I’ll call him comrade until he proves himself otherwise.

Most recently, a kid with a fast gun and a burning need for notoriety has joined us: Carter Burwell, out of Wichita, Kansas. He looks to be eighteen or nineteen, not yet in his full beard, and reminds me of more than a few of the boys I mustered in with back at War’s commencing. He’s brave, though, and for all he boasts of it, he is indeed keen with his pistols. If he settles down and doesn’t get himself killed trying to make his name, he’s got the makings of a man to be reckoned with some day.

My friend Ben Tsosie, the half-Navajo I’ve been acquainted with since I came this far West, has followed me to Alder Creek, if that’s a fair statement of things as they stand. That is to say, he comes to see me at the claim I staked just outside town near the abandoned mineworks, just as he used to find me when I was riding trail in this country. He’s a mystic and a shamen, and I don’t doubt that the spirits he talks to are Angels of the Lord, but with their names obscured into the Navajo tongue. Ben’s the only man who I can say that truly knows my heart, for he knows every inch of me, the good and the bad, and I count myself blessed.

These are the men I call friend these days.

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Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

In the back of Kiah’s bible, in small, tight, handwritten script, on the blank pages, is a journal of events from Kiah’s point of view.

Sept 1 YOL 1879
Met a chinawoman, walked her to town. Went by parsonage. No one there. Our bedroom was as my love left it.

Sept 2 YOL 1879
Town giving sacrifice to false Crow god, turned against itself like the Israelites after Solomon. Lord sent the Chinawoman, two Rebs, and a Jew barber. They will be sufficient.

Sept 3 YOL 1879
They were sufficient. But now little Sarah Leifson is sick, as if starved. The Lord has yet not seen fit to save her.

Sept 4 YOL 1879
Up all night to hallow this church ground and to learn the cause of the Leifson girl’s illness. But it eludes me.

Sept 5 YOL 1879
The Rebs, the Chinawoman, and the Jew are dispatched Westward to find some answer to the starving. I heard the crying again today.

Sept 8 YOL 1879
The Leifson girl is dead. Others are coming. I have opened the church to them, and feed them with such as I can find, but it does no good. The church smells like death. Lord, see to it your servants return with assistance, and right soon.

Sept 11 YOL 1879
The ones sent West have not returned. Did they give up and depart for Perdition? I will know. The sufferers here have died and are buried. Borrowed a mule. Going West to Scully.

Sept 13, YOL 1879
Had a dream. The crying. A snake eating itself. Going East at the bidding of my Lord to battle a great evil. I can only hope the Lord sends help to his humble servant.

Sept 16, YOL 1879
Arrived in Boonesville. Populace strangely well-provisioned. Strange trading, but no great evil. Festival coming.

Sept 17, YOL 1879
Slept behind church. Visited Garrett Farm. Dimwitted husband. Kindly, private wife. Something not right.

Sept 18, YOL 1879
The crying. All night. Slept at the Garretts. Snooped. Keep hearing about a J.A. Only the lord fed the multitude and that from multiplying food. Food is coming from nowhere.

Sept 19, YOL 1879
I took of what was offered at the Garrett’s. Ate the bread, locked myself up. Nothing yet.

Sept 20, YOL 1879
One of the Rebs showed up, wanting me to help the Jew.

Sept 21, YOL 1879
The Chinawoman is dead. Trampled by a horse. The Lord bless and keep her, and the Angels give her peace.

Sept 23, YOL 1879
Helped the Jew. Back to Boonesville, with a China Man now among us. They don’t know I hear the crying all the time now.

Sept 26, YOL 1879
Blur of blood and smoke. Broke up festival’s devil feast and found its cause. Stole the basket. Hid out in church. Talked to much and got ambushed. Abominations with hungry bellies. That basket steals the food from other people’s stomachs! When they starve, they rise as devils! Little Sarah Leifson was a monster. J.A. came. Burned the basket. He’s my son.

Sept 27, YOL 1879
The skinny Reb banished Jeremiah Adams, by telling the boy his own name. Li got hurt. Went back to Alder Creek and fixed him up. New fella around. I forget his name.

Sept 29, YOL 1879
The crying is back. Told the skinny Reb everything. Moved a consumption patient into the parsonage.

Sept 30, YOL 1879
An Indian healer, a banker, and a walking murder victim come to town today. The Indian killed the walking murder victim. Not sure what to do about the banker.

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