Dark as a Dungeon

The Gospel According to Willard (Chapter 6)

We were locked in closets and closely guarded until the time of our trial when our lawyer demonstrated his incompetence. Luckily we had our tin horn friend and lots of bene chips, so we were freed. The end. (Let the break dancing begin!)

The Gospel According to Willard (Chapter 5)
Wolves and Shining Knife die

The time for grasping as straws came to an end, and it was time for decisive action guided by Divinely inspired wisdom. After all, the train to Denver was due in two days, and there were pledges made to Mrs. Buechner and a town that we could not very well leave in the hands of dark spiritual forces and that misguided heathen cross-breed Shining Knife.

It was time to take account of what we knew and what we needed to know to bring justice and the Lord’s mercy to the cowardly inhabitants of Pemberton’s Crossing. Their weakness and lack of courage allowed them to eschew God and their own mettle in favor of superstitious injun magicks of Shining Wolf. They would not stand themselves against the wolves, and they allowed the diabolical fog to claim their nights while they huddled behind salt, iron, and devil magic to protect them.

These pathetic cowards did not deserve saving, but the Lord’s mercy is infinite and through His grace we found ourselves here to protect those who had grown lax in their faith.

We had reason to suspect Shining Knife was responsible for calling the diabolical fog, but his intentions seemed good and honest. He was cagey about the matter during initial probes by those engaging him. The time for pibble pabble had passed. Now was a time for plain talk with this half-redskin orphan. The boy was reluctant to provide straight responses, but ultimately his proud and boasting nature made him poor at keeping secrets and he confessed to conjuring the cloud which he claimed was comprised of his ancestral spirits. He did so to keep the wolves out of town and could not fully control the cloud which claimed members of the town like young Master Buechner. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

To test the boy’s boasts, we offered to travel to the hills and put down the wolves in their warrens. If he truly called the cloud just to defend the town, how could he refuse? The battle with the wolves was fierce, but the team acquitted ourselves nicely. The Celestial witch had trouble with her sorcery and blinded the team. The Lord saw fit to restore the vision Lucifer had taken away, and we proceeded to slay the beasts. The tenderfoot reporter, in particular, proved useful in battle. His shotgun blasts against the mother of the wolves took the fight right out of that horrific red-eyed creature.

With photos of the slaughter and the drunkard carrying the she-wolf’s hide, we returned to town and slept soundly. The next morning, we confronted Shining Knife. The threat of the wolves was gone, and now the only other unnatural evil looming to threaten Pemberton’s Crossing was one that an immature and not particularly forthcoming injun could unreliably control. My companions wanted to claim a sizable bounty for Shining Knife that would require us to bring him to Denver alive. Not serving Mammon, this reward meant little to me, but knowing the boy was a wanted man added to my suspicion of him.

We offered Shining Knife an opportunity to join us voluntarily on a trip to Denver. He’d previously refused citing his need to protect the town from the wolves. Wolves dispatched, excuse dispatched. He was reluctant to join. Leaving behind a man with such unnatural dark forces at his command seemed to much a risk, especially because this force of his had claimed Buechner’s son and others in the town. The boy owed a debt of blood.

To be sure the boy was not boasting, we baited him into beginning the summoning of the diabolical fog. When the boy began the ritual, we interrupted. The boy refused to submit to arrest when prompted by the German and despite warning walked away knowing it would mean his death. Before the drunkard or I could act, the quick-thinking doctor fired into Shining Knife’s head killing him instantly.

The cowardly locals who cowered like beaten bitch pups opened opened fire on our group. Cooler heads and the silver tongues of the tale-telling reporter and Celestial ended the gunfire. We calmly submitted to the emboldened mob and the townsfolk have detained us in a saloon. The truth shall set them free . . . or else.

The Gospel According to Willard (Chapter 4)

The Trail

Wandering from the train wreck, the drunkard led us in pursuit of tracks wondering out into the wilderness. Whatever we were tracking intended for us to abandon hope of finding it, for it used all manner of crafty means to shake us from its trail. What confounded us was a patch of etched rocks that bore some sort of devil magic markings. Neither our Celestial witch, nor our Kraut man of science could make head nor tail of them.

Prosperity Falls

Eventually we stumbled upon the town of Pemberton’s Crossing, which was all but abandoned the evening we arrived. We passed an empty, but not abandoned church and livery on our way across the bridge to the town’s main street. There on main street, the town’s residents had boarded themselves and prepared various superstitious and diabolical trappings to protect themselves. Some sacrilegiously mounted crosses and employed whatever folklore wards they knew to keep something at bay.

Creatures of Darkness
After seeing a bright light and fog of tendrils approach, we heard the baying of wolves and at the townsfolk’s urgings through barred doors, we rode across the river for sanctuary. We dismounted in a haste and held up in the town’s church. Eventually, we heard the blood-curdling neighing and whinnying of our horses as they were savaged by wild, unnatural beasts. The cries were awful and finally I could stand it no more, so I stepped out into the darkness and made my way to the corral where our animals were being devoured by twisted wolves.

The Lord answered my prayers and illuminated the corral and made targets of the vicious wolves, who were plenty mortal and died and ran off quickly when faced with righteous wrath and hot lead. Surveying the carnage, though, I realized quickly that our mounts had paid the price for our cowardice. Why we holed up inside instead of making a stand, I can only attribute to the weakening influence of the Devil himself.

Defending the Sanctity of Hallowed Ground
With virtually all of our mounts dead, including my own favorite mule Malachi, the worst sort of sacrilegious blasphemy was suggested. Not once but incessantly. A cacophony of godlessness rang from the mouths of the dandy liar and other members of our band. They wanted to bring beasts of the field into your house, Lord! These animals that piss and shit so freely to defile the sanctity of your temple? Lord, my blood began to boil at the notion. With the patience of Job, I endured the first few suggestions . . . but the unclean would not cease. To demonstrate my righteous displeasure and end these profane demands, I shot the drunkard’s spare horse. None of those insisting on storing the animals in your house had a living steed themselves, or I would have chosen their steed.

The unfaithful looked at me with such scorn, Lord. As if I, who was defending the hallowed ground of your holy temple, was the villain in the affair. The Good Book says that none are beyond salvation and redemption, but that is not my purpose, Lord. Mine is to render souls unto you for judgment. When the time comes for the drunkard to be judged, Lord, I ask that you bear in mind that he neither asked that his animal be allowed to desecrate your church or protested when his animal was shot to prevent them others from forcing it in.

Vague Recollections

I also recall some business about a lying half-breed and a saloon keeper who ran his mouth a lot. The saloon keeper reminded me a lot of you know who, and I felt it best to stay clear of the place as best I could.

For all the troubles of its curse, Prosperity Falls is a place high on sass and wanting in faith. If not for my suspicion that the town’s ancestors might include god-fearing souls that dark agents of Scratch have usurped from you, I would let this wretched village perish like Sodom and Gomorrah. My hands are yours, Lord. I do your bidding in this and all things.

The Gospel According to Willard (3)

Wearily our retinue made its way back from the mines to Melody. There are places where the Lord’s presence is felt only faintly and the Godlessness of this place is unmistakable. The stench of greed and desperation is dilluted only by that of the undead miners who stumble around this wretched community.

We purchase rail tickets for the passage to Denver, but the train will not come for three days. Forced to whittle away our precious days in idleness, we should not have been surprised by the calamity that befell us. Idleness is the devil’s workshop.

In one encounter already at the local church in town, we encountered a young false prophet, who stands by and allows darkness and the works of Lucifer to enthrall his town. Well, soon we encountered his senior at the church. He chastised our group for leaving a nugget of ghost rock in the offering box to help feed the poor of this cursed town.

After gathering a crowd with his public rebuke, he threw the nugget at the feet of the Widow Zimmerman, whose wrath got the best of her. The witch’s hands burst into blames and she caused the hurled cunk of ore to fly back into the face of the old preacher, nearly killing the man.

This spectacle terrified the townsfolk, who ran for the town’s marshal. I sought to heal the preacher’s wounds, but in his wisdom the Lord chose not to grant the man a blessing. This was a telling sign from above about the nature of this so-called preacher.

The widow and the drunkard seemed rattled by the crowd’s reaction and the coming of the marshal, and got jumpy and to scampering about. Herr Doctor used one of his contraptions to heal the preacher. What can be said of a man who cannot be healed by righteous prayer, but readily mends when a demonic device is affixed to his ears?

In short order, we took the raving preacher to his office where we detected the foul stench of death coming from the floorboards. I followed the false prophet outside suspecting he had murdered his younger fellow and left the german there in the room to verify with occular proof.

While outside speaking with the preacher, the marshal arrived and the doctor nodded confirmation of our suspicions. I sought the guidance of the Lord, and kneeled in prayer and invited the preacher to do so, too.

The Lord spoke to me and told me of this man’s guilt and his need to die. When we stood I asked the reverend, who claimed to be a righteous man of good, if he knew me. He called me a soldier of Christ. All men who are saints and followers of our dear Lord are his Christian soldiers. What this false prophet’s words showed was that he did not see with God’s eyes. He did not recognize that I, Willard Keaton, am the Angel of Death himself.

With that I rose and slew this servant of the whore of Babylon, and pried away the whip that had been used to lash the other young, false prophet inside.

The marshal rushed to me, but in all Christian modesty, I would not accept his thanks or praise for having done God’s work.

That evening I said prayers of thanks to Our Savior and he blessed me with understanding. While Widow Zimmerman’s actions and those of the Doctor seem infernal, they helped uncover the horrific sins of a false prophet and helped God’s justice to be done. Perhaps God has a plan, even for these wretched sinners and they are tools of his that I should not be so quick to dismiss. He moves in mysterious ways and His will is beyond my comprehension. I will pray for wisdom.

The Gospel According to Willard (2)

In the bowels of the Earth, we encountered the foul walking dead enthralled by the powers of Satan . . . and dispatched them. Their bodies, which You created, can no longer be put to the service of the Devil and his minions on earth. Likewise, with Your guiding influence, we destroyed infernal contraptions constructed to do the Dark Lord’s bidding. I thank you, Lord, not for preserving me from this unholy terrors but for calling me to be the instrument of your divine wrath.

The hellish ore these monsters and machines ripped from the bosom of your earth is being collected, for what purpose I know not . . . yet. But we pursue those who would extract it, and enslave the bodies of your fallen congregation.

During our trial, I have come to know more about my companions, and I am conflicted, Lord, and pray for Your guidance. They have all shown themselves committed to fighting evil, though I know Widow Zimmerman to be a hellish and foul=mouthed, half-Celesital witch. Beuregard is an avaricious and godless heathen, and The Drunkard would seem redeemable if he were not savagely ensnared by the witch’s charms. The Prussian seems no better than those we seek to oppose. The journalist seems an honest sort, but he keeps the Prussian as a bedfellow, which disconcerts me.

In town we met two gentlemen who hate the mining company, one of whom presents himself as a private detective and former Confederate spy. His being a confessed liar and manager of the mining company, I do not trust him. Shown the smallest of signs, I would devotedly send his soul to You for judgment. Instead, we carry the hellish ore to Denver for analysis. My hope is that You will reveal Your wisdom to us and show us those who You would punish.

Last night, we returned to the storage depot that held ore and concealed ourselves in the cart to follow it to its next wicked link in the chain of evil. With Your blessing we smote four vile sinners and violent men. I pray, Lord, that you will speed their souls’ damnation and guide our steps as we contend with the forces of the Beast.

Widow Zimmerman's Thoughts

New People
New people have arrived in town and, before I could stop myself, I shared with them a tale of recent events. Of course, not all recent events. Some things are still worn close to my heart, and other ugly shadows still cling and cause me to fear the full, spoken truth. However, I was able to tell them enough so that we’ve loosely joined together, and I have a form of company and protection as I seek the reason that James was killed, and had to be killed again. I hope that they will see for themselves the evil this company has wrought and join me in my quest to destroy Hammer’s Toll Mining Company. For the time being, I am satisfied that I’ve found the ability to seek a means.
The Newspaper Man
This fool has no means or inclination to check his tongue. Likely he means well, but the West will either make him wiser or confront him with a cold, bloody dose of the truth he claims to seek. In the meantime, I hope that I am not foolish enough to give him fodder for his pen.
The German
Profit and ghost rock are his purpose here. Melody has another voice calling for their share of the wealth. This one calls out in a clipped and guttural accent.
My Hired Gunman
He asks few questions. For this particular virtue I’m inclined to keep him on.
The Praying Gunman
At times he appears to be a willing helper, but at the next turn I fear his condemnation. What are his motives? Will he help me fight the evil which owns this town?
Snake Oil Salesman
He will profit in Melody. The entire place stinks of desperation, and that will suit him just fine.

The Gospel According to Willard (1)


The Lord has guided me to walk in the wilderness and tests me daily, so as to purify my soul and strengthen my faith. He suffers fools and wicked men unto me, and it is not mine to question his reason but to do his bidding.

My Employer stinks of cabbage and ghostrock.

“Idlehands are the devil’s tools”, the Good Book says, so I have taken employment with a strange and incomprehensible kraut mining engineer, whose name is difficult to remember for its tedious length. He has brought us to a mining town called Melody, Colorado. By He, I mean our Lord. The German himself is short of funds and so I have paid my own way here.

Melody, Colorado

The town carries the stink of a modern Sodom or Gomorrah, like all those other towns I’ve been. These must be the End of Days. How else is a body to explain the strange things that come to pass daily in this world?

The doctor is unable to furnish me with lodgings, but elects opulent quarters for himself. The genius is unable to locate the town’s mining office, so I have serious doubt that I will find myself long in his employ. A porter directs us to the mining office where the German discusses matters of business that are beyond me. He has his trade and his purpose and I serve mine.


We are followed by a young tinhorn looking to be a newspaperman, who makes fast friends of the doctor and invites himself to bed with the doctor. He says that he is committed to printing the truth, but does not carry a Bible and seems more concerned with gossip.

The Widow Zimmerman’s Misfortune

Most significantly, we encounter a half-celestial widow outside the mining office whose husband has apparently been a victim of necromancy. The widow believes the Hemmer’s Toll Mining Company is to blame for her husband’s death and rebirth. She set her husband’s body to rest herself, which speaks well of her character. She spoke blasphemy, however, so I rebuked her as Your Word bids me.

The dandy Beauregard

Her consort was a silver-tongued dandy, who calls himself Beauregard. His hands were soft and uncalloused, so I know he’s no honest man. His words and actions demonstrate that Mammon is his master. Avarice is a deadly sin and he shall reap what he sows.

The drunkard

They have among them a feller called Roscoe, who has debased himself with drink in public and in the company of a lady, albeit a half-celestial one. His manners are coarse and he reminds me of those vile patrons of the Black Rose back home. He appears to be a gunman by trade, which could either redeem or damn him. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. When Roscoe meets his end, his soul will be laid bare before Your judgment, like all the others.

Our First Expedition to the 7G Mine

We ally ourselves and travel to the 7G mine where the Widow Zimmerman’s husband worked, before his becoming walking dead. The mine has been closed by the mining company and boarded up. Evidence inside confirms it is not for reason of it not being a going concern, so surely it must be a more sinister purpose. We explore that evening, eluding prairie ticks on the travel there. Inside the mine, the German repairs an infernal engine that lowers us down the mine and we explore several tunnels. We encounter nothing, but the German carves ghost rock out of the walls and presents me with some, as payment for my services. For all his flaws, he may be honest in matters of employment.

Preparations and Visiting a False Prophet

The next day, some have appointments and I take the drunkard trading in town. We buy equipment and sundries to further explore the mine, including barbed wire, spikes and nails, hammers, tin snips and a dog whistle. Roscoe buys shovels and other digging gear.

I pay a visit to a local church. There are no Baptists in town, so I settle for a Methodist one. The ghost rock I place in the poor box in hopes it will be used to tend your flock. Later that day, I visit the church and meet an unimpressive church mouse of a preacher. His manner is too content. Where is his righteous zeal? Necromancy at work in his congregation and he lacks holy outrage. Like so many other men of the cloth, he does not seem truly moved by the Spirit. So, I rebuke this false prophet as Your Word bids me.

Dust to Dust

Roscoe the drunkard and I collect the others and make our way via a wagon the Widow has procured from a neighbor. We make our way out to revisit the mine, and during daylight we encounter two undead miners who accost us. Your rod and staff comfort me as we walk through the valley of death. So, I fear no evil, but instead dispatch one of the zombies with a bullet guided by Your hand. To his credit, Roscoe does the same with his Lemat. The rest of our journey passes without event.

Second Expedition to the Mine

At the mine we explore until we focus on a collapsed section of the mine. Honest toil, peppered with avaricious doddling, and the passage is cleared. We hear an infernal drilling machine and follow its path, sound, and terrible-smelling exhaust. The machine smells of sulfur, like hell itself. It crosses the path of a mine whose mining cars operate along a rail unguided by man or beast and it is an unnerving sight.

My companions and I brace ourselves for more unholy mechanical terror and forge on deeper into the depths of this wretched place. Some to enrich themselves, but I to send You souls for judgment. Mercy is mine, sayeth the Lord. So, mercy I leave to the Lord.

The Jumping Off Point
A blog for your campaign

Distinguished German scientist Viktor Adolph Gerhard Von Freiburg has arrived in Colorado to inspect local minerals and ores for potential uses regarding the New Science. Due to its location adjacent to both major rail lines and several well-established mining claims, Dr. Von Freiburg has chosen to base his exploratory operations in the town of Melody, Colorado. During his reconnaissance, Dr. Von Freiburg hears of the recently closed 7G mine formerly run by Hemmer’s Toll Mining and Excavation Co. The 7G was a moderately productive deposit of ghost rock. Official company word is that the vein was tapped out, but a quick canvas of the local mining folk indicates disbelief at this statement; the mine had been open for only a few short months and a deposit the size of the one indicated on the geological survey would take more than a year to exhaust. Some hint at a darker cause for the mine closure. Miners are always an expendable commodity in the Weird West, but folks say more than a usual number have been expended in 7G. Undertaker Silas Hartley reports an increase in closed and empty casket funerals. But still, there is the matter of a mine potentially full of ghost rock, just waiting to become part of an enterprising scientist’s experiments. Curious as he may be, Dr. Von Freiburg is no fool and for protection he has hired a steely-eyed shootist who, at least currently, goes by the name of Willard Keaton. Keaton is a known figure in town, but not a well-liked one; he’s as surly as a rattler and twice as dangerous. The bullets from his Remington revolver seem to spend more time in citizens than in their cylinder. Not a wonderful trait in a neighbor, but a highly desirable one in an armed escort. They are accompanied by the visiting journalist Walter Wilfred Williams, of the Boston Williamses, who “seeks to document the unvarnished truth about the rugged American West.” Williams has been omnipresent around town, jotting notes down at a furious pace while following Marshall Quentin Hoover on his rounds or sitting on a barrel at Zachariah Dolan’s general store listening to the local cowhands take the piss.

Meanwhile, Zhen Zimmerman seeks to continue her quest for revenge against the Hemmer’s Toll Mining and Excavation Co., whom she believes is responsible for the death (and undeath) of her husband. James Zimmerman ran a farm until he succumbed to a hostile land grab by none other than Hemmer’s Toll. After the mysterious blaze which destroyed his homestead he was forced to sell the land at a loss and hoist the pick and shovel for the city’s largest employer: Hemmer’s Toll. The recently closed 7G mine lies on the plot wrested from the Zimmermans. In a predictable twist of fate, James returned to his own former land to mine ore in 7G. Fortunately, after months of back-breaking work, James was able to find a way out of the mines; unfortunately, it was a horizontal exit. Not long after his death and burial, Zimmerman came home, decaying, mindless and raving. Zhen had no choice but to put him down. Since then she has sought revenge against the company who has twice wronged her. She has heard the rumors of the mysterious closing of 7G and wants to return to her former home to investigate her husband’s suspicious demise. Short on firepower, she seeks a hired hand and finds rifleman Roscoe Boggs who is more than willing to trade his bullets for cash. Boggs is new to Melody; if he weren’t then he would know better than to do anything that might cross Hemmer’s Toll. Fortunately for Zhen, Boggs’s knowledge of local politics is as low as his bank account and he agrees to be her muscle on her mission of vengeance.

Another newcomer to Melody is the New York born and bred Sam Beauregard. Mr. Beauregard is here on assignment from one of the larger Eastern investment houses and is brokering deals for local prospectors. Mr. Beauregard has brought an exciting opportunity to Melody, offering shares in these (entirely fictitious) mines to our local residents for pennies on the dollar. Many residents have taken advantage of this opportunity, but some have declined – occasionally violently. When local widow Zhen Zimmerman was offered a share in a mine, she told Mr. Beauregard where he could roll it up and put it. Not only did she not want to invest in a mine, she was fixing to put one out of business. The two got to talking and Zhen revealed she was headed toward an abandoned ghost rock mine. Mr. Beauregard immediately saw the possibilities presented by an actually existing mine. Forged mine shares are an excellent prop for bilking the rubes, but an authentic mine? Like nickels from heaven. Using his prodigious charisma, Mr. Beauregard convinced Ms. Zimmerman that he would be an invaluable asset on her trip to the vacant mine.

As the curtain lifts upon our little tale of the good, the bad, the ugly and the very ugly, two separate groups of Wild Cards head toward the Zimmerman’s former home and Hemmer’s Toll’s former claim. Each has his or her own motivation for the trip, but all are about to share an experience that they won’t soon forget as they plunge into a mine that is in more ways than one, DARK AS A DUNGEON.


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