Friday, May 17, 2024

Play Report - Empire of Texas, Session 1 - 5/12/24

Art by Me

"The Emperor of Texas has heard the plight of his allies across the desert. The Plague wracks them and empties out villages. From his riches he promises to provide medicine. The price is independence."

For the Referee side of things, see this blogpost over on the Underground Adventurer.

Players :
Halloween as… the Referee.
Cosmic as… Captain Kelly Branson of his Texan Majesty’s Imperial Army, a bookish officer with high aspirations.
Jack as… Chuck Dalton, a convict with a heart of gold and big dreams.

--- (tw mention of sexual assault and violence)

We set out scene within the walled confines of Fort Tonio upon the Empire’s western frontier. Captain Kelly Branson has arrived to this distant and dusty outpost in order to take charge of an expedition to aid his Majesty’s allies in the far west. He is gruffly received by a certain Captain Butler, commandant of the fort, who signs over the equipment and convicts to be used in the undertaking. Kelly promptly has the prisoners, now his men, unshackled and gives them an impromptu speech on the nobility of their mission and the grace which they have just received from the royal hand. He confers with his new officers, setting one of them, Solomon, to work seeing if he can procure but a little more ammunition for the expedition. They will set out at first light the following morning. Then Kelly repairs to the officers mess to dine with his fellow captain.

Meanwhile, Chuck Dalton stands in the yard, newly freed of his manacles, still massaging his wrists. He is overjoyed to be participating in something for the Greater Good. The other convicts are wandering about and mingling, watched by the wary eyes of the fort’s guards. Two convicts start to argue, escalating into a fight, and Chuck, seeing a chance to be the “hero”, wades in. Moments later one Ignacio Marquez lies bleeding, his face mashed to a pulp under Chuck’s fists. The other convicts eye Dalton warily. Behind a dirty window pane Kelly and Butler watch the brawl and sip wine from old world plasticware.

The next morning the expedition woke at the crack and readied the wagons and steeds in a hurried way. Solomon had managed to arrange with the quartermaster for a few extra rounds of ammunition to be packed in. Before leaving Kelly had the convicts line up and, one by one, distributed the revolvers, ammunition, and lances. With the sun cresting the horizon the party rode out and into the scrub. Midmorning, with the fort still almost in view and everyone settling in, Kelly distributed a bit of chocolate to the men, who quickly ate it before it melted in their fingers. The sun overhead was hot.

The day passed without event, moving westward at a steady pace over hilly shrubland. Come nightfall the expedition camped on the plains under the brilliant stars. It was then that the sentry spied a distant fire and two riders approaching camp.

Kelly woke the other soldiers, then Chuck–telling him to quietly wake the other convicts–and crept out towards the riders making sure to keep low in the scrub so that they were not silhouette against the fire. Kelly cried who goes there and the riders identified themselves as fellow Imperial Texan soldiers, a scouting party ambushed with a wounded member over yonder in their own camp.

Still wary of deception, Kelly took Finch, Merry, Chuck, and two other convicts along with him as he followed the rider back to their camp. There they found eight other ragged soldiers and in a tent their commanding officer suffering from a festering chest wound. Father Finch got to work but could get no further without valuable medical supplies. Kelly took aside the scouting party’s lieutenant and explained the situation to them, telling him that the expedition couldn’t part with their supplies without something to make up for it. The man nodded, understandingly, and scrounged up a jerrycan of gasoline. Finch got to work and by morning the wounded man was stabilized. The two parties parted ways, amicably, wishing each other luck.

The second day proved overcast and muggy. The expedition continued their route westward and around noon caught up with a small caravan of traders also heading west. The traders were protected by nine rifle armed guards and were hauling ammunition with plans to swap it for pelts and feel out opportunities for profit among the hunters of the south. Both expeditions were heading for Tula, and so joined up. The day passed by. While riding Chuck got to know some of his fellow convicts better.

The next morning proved overcast, but drier than the preceding day, and the joined-expeditions arrived shortly in Tula. The town proved to be little more than a collection of mudbrick homes in the shadow of a church belfry but the locales were friendly enough, if aloof and cautious. All the woman kept their hair hidden. Kelly met with the town’s leader, a certain Moonib (Muneb?) he grants them hospitality wit ha few words of warning about the town’s pacifistic ways.  After some haggling, which Kelly got the worst of, the expedition parted with three horses in exchange for a hundred days worth of supplies. Kelly promised to attend mass that evening with the townsfolk and vouched for the conduct of his men. The expedition encamped in the shade of the houses and got to work helping with various small chores and tasks.

Kelly conferred with his men, inviting Chuck into the little circle to. Father Finch expressed discomfort with interior of the church where all images of Lord Jesus Christ had been effaced. Idolators, he concluded. Opinions were mixed on the best route but eventually a southwestern route, heading straight for the nearest crossing of the Dirt Snake was decided upon. The little conference split apart.

That night, after attending a long and boring mass, the expedition members joined in a sumptuous feast of venison stew and old wines from the north. But as everyone tucked in, a murmur arose. One of the congregation, a woman named Sister Jessica, was missing. The expedition realized that one of their own number, a convict called One Eyed Donny, was gone as well. A sinking feeling settled into Kelly’s stomach. Dinner broke apart, what few of the traders had attended the feast split for their own camp.

One of the convicts told Chuck that they’d seen Donny following Sister Jessica out towards the well, quickly he whispered this to Kelly who dispatched Finch and Merry (along with Chuck) to investigate while telling Soloman to gather some of the convicts and began, quietly, getting the horses ready. He himself would follow Moonib and his mob.

The convict and the two soldiers crept out towards the well, finding an abandoned scarf. Expecting the worst, they found it, in the form of Sister Jessica’s body and crouching next to her, his pants round his ankles and a blood stained rock in hand, One Eyed Donny.

Chuck immediately draws his gun, a tense moment, then Donny goes for his gunbelt. A chaotic few moments and then Chuck is on the ground being beaten by Donny when the two soldiers (who had fallen behind) shoot, one missing and one hitting, Donny begins to stagger away and they gun him down.

Chuck, lying there with his face bashed in, looked up and saw the concerned face of F. Finch and beyond it the stars. He passes out.

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