Saturday, May 18, 2024

Play Report - Empire of Texas, Session 2 - 5/17/24

"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… Ignacio Marquez, a hardhearted convict; formerly as Chuck Dalton, currently indisposed due to his injuries.

Chuck Dalton survived the night despite his injuries, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Father Finch, but his cracked skull gained a bad infection. The next morning, as the expedition quickly packed its bags and got the hell out of the now hostile village of Tula, he was packed away like so much cargo in the back of one of the wagons to rest.

The sky was overcast and as soon as the party had left town the clouds split open in a deluge like downpour, turning the track to mud. Everyone took the opportunity to fill their canteens, but the general mood was dour and glum. That evening, after a days travel westward, the expedition halted at an abandoned grain silo and camped there as the rain began to abate. That night, Ignacio, still smarting from his fight with Chuck, silently crept over to the latter's sleeping roll with a knife in hand. Before he could do the deed however, another convict awoke and he quickly feigned checking Chuck’s bandages.

The next day was overcast and Chuck’s infection had taken a turn for the worse. The expedition struck out westward across the fading plains and travelled till about midday when one of the convict scouts, Karl, brought Captain Kelly a report of a small party to the south. Kelly quickly collected Merryweather and Ignacio then rode with Karl in the lead to a small gully where a band of men where picking through a broken down wagon. Four men standing guard with rifles while otherwise hauled out crates and cracked them open. Through his field glasses Kelly spied fine looking fabrics. Some kind of argument broke out below, but Kelly felt content to leave the strangers alone. His comrades did not agree, arguing that the expedition needed trade goods and that it was well within their rights as Texan soldiery to seize what they needed. Kelly sighed, but agreed. Besides it would make for a chance to test the men in battle.

Quickly they rode back to the wagons, leaving Karl to keep watch, and collected seven men (leaving behind F. Finch, the injured Chuck, and two convicts to keep guard) then rode back to the gully.

The plan was this. The three soldiers–Kelly, Solomon, and Merryweather–would take up a position ont he high ground above the gully, where they already were, and open up with rifle fire on the wagoners below. The convicts on horseback would circle around and descend into the gully then come charging into the wagoners side with their lances while the latter were distracted. Kelly placed Ignacio in command of the charge.

The convicts saddled up and road out while the soldiers unholstered their rifles and bellycrawled up to the edge of the wide gully.

The first salvo hit two of the wagoners, injuring one who jumped behind cover and dropping another. Solomon’s shot went wide, making him curse. The wagoners respond rapidly, six rifles opening up. Most of the shots go wide, whizzing overhead like wasps or sending up gouts of dirt. However two hit their target and Solomon suddenly slumped forward with a grunt.

Before either party can reload, a fierce yell rings out and down the gully come the charging convicts, their lances leveled. The wagoners frantically turn and start taking shots but the horsemen are quickly upon them and all is chaos. Ignacio spears a man. Jessica takes a slug a falls from her horse. Dolores receives a wound but gouges a chunk out of a wagoners skull in return. Esteban likewise. Ester too. Suddenly its all over, the wagoners morale breaks for there is only one man left standing, or rather crawling, beneath the wagon. He pleads for surrender.

Back up on the gully rim, Merryweather and Kelly have rushed over to Solomon and turned him over revealing the bullet wound in his scalp and throat. Blood bubbles out as he tries to breath. Kelly hugs him close and the soldier dies in his captains arms.

Down below, the convicts are dismounting, checking themselves over, and accounting for the dead and wounded. Igancio in a fit of rage grabs the surrendering wagoner by the hair  (to scalp him?) and drags them out from his hiding space only for the man to get the better of him, the two scuffle and roll apart each with new knife wounds. Kelly is running down the gully side yelling about clemency, but it’s too late.

The wagoners are all dead or dying. They are not given medical attention. Jessica (who it turns out is dead) and Solomon’s bodies are loaded up on horses along with the looted weapons, ammunition, and miscellaneous kit from the dead wagoners. The crates are opened up, they contain expensive old world clothing: denims, sneakers, tough boots. Those too are loaded up, but as the convicts go to drag the crates out from within the broken wagon they cry out. Within is the bloated, rotting corpse of a man. A man struck by plague. Crossing themselves and making warding signs, the expedition quickly departs, taking the wagoners two horses with them and leaving the rest for buzzard food.

The expedition makes camp that night, the wounded are tended to and the dead buried. F. Finch is kept busy with surgeries while Kelly makes an account of supplies expended and gained. While examining the looted rifles he notes the makers mark, which reveal that they come from “Machine” a long standing armoury town recently annexed into the empire. Trade rifles and trade bullets, exported by imperial traders, which went on to kill imperial soldiers. He shakes his head in disgust. Later he distributes an extra revolver to each of the men and issues a rifle for each of the convicts.

The next day is dreary, still overcast, with blackbirds calling as the expedition awake and break camp. They head westward for the Dirt Snake, leaving behind two graves and a bloodied, buzzard circled killing field. Chuck’s condition worsens. The day passes uneventfully and in the evening they come upon the Dirt Snake, a sort of dried riverbed, like a great big canyon cutting its way through the shrubland. The party makes camp on the chasm edge.

The next morning is misty, the bottom of the Dirt Snake hidden under a sea of grey. The expedition spends the morning descending into the canyon, on foot, leading horse and wagon. Chuck seems to be doing better, he is sitting up and talking. At the bottom they find a chaos of mud, ruck, and rusted metal junk. There is no obvious place of ascent for the opposite side and by the time night comes the party is forced to make camp in the canyon bottom. Kelly worries over their dwindling food supplies.

The day breaks hot and bright, burning away what remained of the mists. The expedition winds its way along the canyon searching for a route up the otherside. Chuck, who seemed to be doing so much better, is bed ridden and feverish. As the party is picking their way along, maneuvering the wagons through the jumbled rock and mud, they suddenly hear low bellowing echo down the chasm. Mud and flying dust, a pack of six mangy not-exactly cows, toothy goat-bulls, charging towards the expedition. The horses began to panic. Kelly quickly whips together a firing line, taking up position behind the wagons, and nine rifles open fire. Only three shots hit, downing the same number of bulls, the rest miss or bury themselves in impenetrable flesh. Quickly the men work the levers of their rifles. The second salvo downs another two bulls, leaving one left who crashes through the wagons, gunning for one of the convicts: Leandra. With shocking calmness, she drops her rifle and pulls out her big knife and before you can blink she has grabbed the charging bull by its horns, swinging deftly up around and onto its back. She plunges her knife blade into its brain and the bull topples, coming to a skidding halt with Leandra atop it, unharmed. Everyone gapes.

F. Finch is of the opinion that the mutant bulls are probably edible if thoroughly cooked, Kelly, eyeing the nearly exhausted rations, orders them butchered along with three of the spare horses. Most of the afternoon is spent at the task and the party makes camp in the canyon bottom once more, feasting on black roasted bull and chewy horseflesh.

Day nine is overcast and the expedition is still in the damn Dirt Snake, Fortunately, they manage to climb up and out of the west side of the canyon that morning. The vegetation is sparser here, as the shrubland slowly fades into desert. Chuck is stabilized and everyone wounded in the skirmish has healed up. The day is spent in uneventful travel, though all are acutely aware of how desperately low their food supplies are. Kelly sends Leandra out to scout the southwest but she comes back with nothing to report but barren plains. That night the expedition camp in the open grasses and eats through the last of their supplies. Three horses go without feed or drink so that the men can eat.

Day ten is hot, the baking sun high overhead, and the party heads westward with empty, protesting bellies over dirt and dry grass. The day passes by. As they are setting camp in the evening and ignoring the gnawing in their bellies, Leandra returns from scouting out the north. She brings Kelly to the corpse of a deer, its rib cage torn open and viscera spread across the ground, and points out a thin wavering column of smoke further north. Kelly, Ignacio, Leandra, and Karl mount up and ride out towards the smoke in hopes of a little hunting at least.

What they find is a circle of burnt out wagons, the wagoners scattered about; dead and clutching weapons in their stiff hands...

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