When we last left off, our posse of rough and tumble adventurers had finished off a gang of outlaws who had attempted to highjack their train. In taking account of the carnage, they found the baggage car and caboose had vanished. Laura Giles was rather insistent that someone find the baggage car. So Dr. Etienne Vendretti, Raul Blackthorne, Ernestine Smith, Tanya McDaniels, and Tobias Allen accompanied Laura searching down the tracks for the missing cars. Tala, the wise comanchee medicine man, stayed behind to comfort and protect the rest of the passengers.
A quarter mile down the track, the posse found the baggage car and caboose overturned on the side of the track, with some luggage strewn around. Laura pulled open a door on the baggage car and stepped in, followed shortly by Ernestine, with Etienne keeping watch outside, chuckling ruefully to himself.
It was dark inside the windowless car, so Laura lit a match – in the small sphere of light she saw red streaks on the roof underneath her feet- Ernestine quickly spotted a lantern out of the scattered mess and lit it – the lantern was covered with gore, and so was the rest of the cabin. Both women took a moment to recover their nerves as they took in the nightmarish scene. The crate – which Laura had been particularly interested in, seem to have been shattered apart, from the inside. Tobias looked in the car, took in the carnage and set to gathering the belongings of the other passengers, finding the reporter Denise Merritt's belongings in decent condition.
While digging up luggage, Tobias found the damaged remains of some sort of elaborate pistol, along with spent shells on the floor. Laura further identified it as a gatling pistol that belonged to her partner, Alan Seyberth. Ernestine looked more closely at the gun and found that it had not been damaged due to a misfire, but it had been bent by some outside force.
Inside the caboose, more carnage was uncovered, with gore from what must have been the remaining two employees. Someone found a scattergun among the scattered gear. Ernestine found some emergency signs and set them out near the track, to warn any future trains of the wreck ahead.
Meanwhile, Etienne noticed some odd tracks leading from the car and in to the woods beyond; , it wasn't like any animal or man he had trailed before. Etienne felt something truly disturbing had made these, something weaved out of supernatural influences – He consulted with Raul about his sense, and Laura injected herself into the discussion.
The party was starting to grow suspicious of Laura's agenda, but she assured the party that she was just a humble school teacher looking to establish a new school with her missing associate, and it was not uncommon that privileged men back east arm them selves with gatling pistols before heading west. The rest of the gang was more than satisfied with this completely reasonable explanation.
Tanya was eager to follow the tracks, in spite of the sun getting lower in the sky. Raul tried to dissuade her but she snapped back at him. The two argued until Laura shut them both down in her best school-mistress fashion.
The posse made a plan for the rest of the passengers. They would bring them back to camp near the baggage car and set them following the tracks back to the nearest town of Nero in the morning, while they hunted down whatever had killed the poor folks in the caboose.
Etienne delivered the bad news, the plan and the scattergun to Harold the cook. The young boys in the wreck tried to see what had happened inside the baggage car, but Laura school-marmed them into place. Tobias dutifully delivered luggage to the other passengers, sparing them from viewing it first hand. Everyone was fed with what was salvaged from the dining car and camp was struck as the sun went down.
Raul and Tanya took first watch. Raul took the opportunity to explain to Tanya that he had been hired to look after her on account of her father, Hell McDaniels – furthermore, she was being considered for a place within the Texas Rangers – the Confederacy's special organization of law enforcement and protection. Tanya shrugged this off and explained to Raul that her only goal was to reunite with her mother. Raul reluctantly agreed to help her.
Second watch was handled by Etienne and Ernestine, and she failed to make amends for her earlier offenses towards him. During third watch Laura gave Tobias a copy of the Tempest and some instruction on the works of Shakespeare.
When morning came, the posse set to follow the trail while the passengers and Tala headed back down the track. Ms. Merrit pulled her camera from her bag and offered to take a "final" photograph of the posse before they set off, as well as offering to send last words to next of kin. The posse politely declined.
Raul then set Roscoe, his faithful dog on the trail. Roscoe detected the strange smell of bananas and basements, and led the posse up the forested mountainside. Along the way, small splatters of blood were noted in the melting snow. Etienne found the point in which he saw through the eyes of dying porter, confirming that at least one of the missing bodies would be found this way.
Roscoe led the gang to a small clearing against a cliff face. The trees here had not yet begun to bud and they retained their skeletal wintery appearance. In the center of the clearing, a rough pile of dead leaves and wet earth had been piled, and emanated hot pungent vapors. Laura came forward to investigate the mound more closely – then a desiccated human hand clawed out of the mound beneath her. Laura reeled back, and the posse stared in dismay as corpses of the railway men and outlaws pulled themselves from the filth. Tobias and Ernestine nearly fainted at the sight of the walking dead. Tanya however steeled herself and blasted away with both pistols and the former Alan Seyberth shuffling towards her. As the bullets blasted into his midsection, flesh and bone ripped away like burnt paper, revealing 8 translucent eyes surrounding an incectoid maw where the vital organs should have been.
Though Ernestine was overwhelmed with panic, the rest of the posse recovered and took aim and these monstrosities. The former Alan Seyberth spat a strange ichor at Tanya, but she ignored it. Raul cast an explosive hex at another two, though he couldn;t control the hex and it burned up his insides to do so. Laura scrambled back to her bag to pull out a LeMat carbine and finished off the thing that was her lost partner.
Another spider-thing spat its ichor at Raul, blinding him! Raul saw through the eyes of his canine familiar to place another shot into the head of the creature- but discovered that human heads were useless to the things that were wearing the bodies like puppets. Yet another one of began clawing away at Ernestine, who was overcome with fear and surprise. Yet Ettiene and Tanya kept the lead flying towards these grotesque husks, felling them one by one.
Finally the last of these unholy beasts is felled by a blast of grapeshot from Laura Giles.
Tobias set to laying his hands on the injured, while Laura inspected the remains of these creatures. They looked like juvenile spiders, only nearly the size of a man-they appear to have been imbedded in the bodies and had absorbed the bodily fluids like nutrients. These must have been hatchlings, laid in the bodies by whatever was in that crate.
Roscoe pointed Raul towards a crack in the cliff face beyond the clearing. Whatever this thing was it was hiding within.
Will the posse stop this nightmarish beast? Will they discover its origins? Does Laura Giles know more than she lets on? Will the posse find their way back to civilization? Is the gang of outlaws planning cruel revenge?
Find out the answers to these questions and much more in next months thrilling installment of "Terrifying TRUE Tales of the West"!