Friday, June 7, 2024

Play Report - Empire of Texas, Session 4 - 6/3/24

"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."

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.

Kelly and Merryweather ride into the wagon fort, swinging down from their horses and gathering Father Finch and Chuck for a huddled conference. They argue in hushed tones. After nearly exhausting their allotted time they manage to hash out a plan. A gunshot rings out across the desert. Time’s up. Before they leave Kelly orders the men to build a small, smokey, fire.

Kelly, Chuck, and Merry ride out to make a counteroffer to the Jackal. The expedition will return the “stolen” goods in total and will even surrender some supplies but will not give up any of their men or ammunition. If he wants the latter the Jackal will have to fight for it. And if he does, well, Kelly gestures to the wisp of smoke rising from the wagon fort, there won’t be much left to recover. We won’t simply roll over like dogs, is the gist of it.

Things are tense for a moment, then the Jackal laughs. He agrees to an exchange of hostages and supplies, meeting halfway between the two parties; unarmed. He’d like to conclude things with a firm handshake, face to face, man to man.

The negotiators ride back to the wagon fort and collect the goods. They return, Kelly and Merry mounted with Chuck and Marcus on foot hauling the box of gold. Kelly has a saddlebag filled with the drugs and he takes with him also a lit torch and a can of gasoline, just in case.

The two parties meet midway, with the rest of their bands standing back on the edge of rifle shot. Marcus and Chuck go forward first, depositing the box of gold. They retreat and the village children are released, running towards the expeditioneers in a panicked huddle. The Jackal does not yet release Simone. 

Kelly rides up, grimaces, and gets down from his horse taking the saddlebag with him. He tosses it at the Jackals feet and puts out his hand. The bald man smiles and grasps it firmly. He pulls Kelly towards him. A gleaming knife jumps into Kelly’s belly. Kelly smashes his torch down into the Jackal’s face. The latter falls down screaming and scattering sparks. Kelly stumbles back clutching at the wound in his side, knocking over the can of gasoline as he does.

The Jackal’s men get their guns unholstered first. One shoots at Merry but his gun misfires and his horse bucks sending the box of gold tumbling along with him. Two men shoot at Kelly and both miss, the bullets whizzing past like angry wasps. Marcus, who had been herding the village children, grunts as he is hit but stays standing.

Kelly, who dropped his torch, is backpedaling towards his horse and fumbling his pistol from its holster. Merry tries to shoot the man holding onto Simone, but he uses her as a shield and he accidentally nails her right in the head. Chuck and Marcus, shooting at the same man, miss also and sink two slugs into her already dead body. Both sides fully open fire now, the children have scattered screaming, the Jackal is rolling around on fire on the ground. The saddlebag of heroin and the spilled gasoline have ignited. One of the Jackal’s men goes down, shot by Kelly, and another drops nailed by Merry.

Everyone’s still firing, including the Jackal’s men further back and the expeditioneers back at the wagon fort. Kelly manages to hop on his horse but gets nailed by a shot from the automatic rifleman and goes down hard, slumping over his horses neck. Marcus is hit and goes down. Steinmetz, one of the riflemen back at the wagon fort, gets hit by a shot and goes down. One of the Jackal’s men tried to grab the box of gold and drag it to safety but gets nailed by a shot from the wagon fort.

Merryweather spurs his horse over to Kelly’s and drags the latter’s unconscious body onto his own steed and starts riding hard for the wagon fort. Chuck runs over and hops on Kelly’s abandoned horse and rides after them. One of the Jackal’s men is hiding behind a dead horse, the men who’d been guarding Simone is playing dead. The rest of the raiders, further back, are charging after the retreating Merry and Chuck.

The automatic rifleman–who had dropped down to the ground, all but disappearing–opens up and drops Merry who slumps like Kelly in the saddle. He shifts his target and brings Chuck down. Both the horses continue running wildly northward. Back at the wagon fort a rifle shot hits F. Finch who grunts and goes pale. The wagon fort riflemen manage to down two of the raiders in retribution.

The remaining combatants were far enough away from the chaos of the center that they keep their cool and keep firing. Of the expedition members, four remain standing; all back at the wagon fort, all convicts. They are: Dolores and Eseteban, a couple, Leandra the knife fighter, and Ester. 

The raiders split in two, riding around and past the wagon fort and northward out of rifle shot where they start to circle round. The wagon fort fighters take the moment to hunker down and assess things. Dolores rolls F. Finch over and finds him not dead but dying from a nasty, oozing, wound in the abdomen. The convicts argue about escaping versus holding out to the very end. A bullet from the automatic rifleman whizzes over head.

They decide to take the expeditions remaining horses, seventeen in total, and drive them out of the wagon fort in a panic, toward the automatic rifleman in hopes that the stampede will flush him out. For insurance they have Leandra, the most vocal escape advocate besides, ride with the herd hanging off the side of the saddle to avoid being seen.

The horses are driven out and go charging down the hill.

The automatic rifleman unloads on the horses, but only downs two in a tangle of limbs. From the wagon fort, Dolores spies the muzzle flash. She takes very careful aim, pulls the trigger, and his brains spatter over the desert grit. She leaps up hollering with delight, only to be dragged down again by Esteban.

Leandra rolls herself upright and begins corralling the horses then jumps down and wrestles the automatic rifle from the dead man’s hands. She retrieves a number of magazines from his body then stalks over to examine the burning remains of the failed exchange.

Back to the north the remaining raiders have stopped and are milling about examining the situation to the south. Their paymaster is dead, the lieutenant (automatic rifleman) is dead, several of their own number are dead. The wagon fort sits strong on the boulder hill. There is a small column of smoke coming up from the burning drugs. They are exhausted from riding through the night. So they quit. They turn their horses and ride away to the north. The expeditioners breath a weary sigh of relief.

Leandra dismounts and rolls Marcus over. Dead, a bullet through the heart. At the wagon fort Steinmetz is found alive, but in urgent need of medical attention. Unfortunately the expeditions surgeon is busy dying of a gut wound. Dolores rides out to retrieve the horses with Merry, Kelly, and Chuck. Both Chuck and Merry are dead, but Kelly is hanging onto life. She brings back to the wagon fort where Ester and Esteban are frantically and inexpertly trying to attend to the dying. In the end, F. Finch expires. Steinmetz was hit in the shoulder so Esteban digs out the dead surgeon’s bonesaw and crudely amputates it. Kelly, somehow, miraculously, stabilizes despite his wounds.

Leandra finds the Jackal, who’d crawled over to a cactus and propped himself up against it. Between his fingers is a failed attempt at rolling up a joint. He is staring up at the sun with his remaining eye, his face and body are horribly burnt and his breathe is a laboured wheeze. Leandra shoots him in hand. Then the knee. Again and again as she screams profanities and the afternoon sun slips past it’s climax. Eventually she takes the automatic pistol from out of his belt and stalks over to the box of gold and begins dragging it toward the wagon fort.

The afternoon passes and fades into night as the remnants of the expedition tend to the wound, collect the animals, loot bodies, and tally up their supplies. Leandra struts about with revolvers, knives, and an automatic pistol stuck in her belt; the automatic rifle slung over one shoulder and it’s magazines shoved into a bag hanging from the other. The convicts, for the one remaining soldier is Kelly who sleeps feverishly beside the fire, discuss what to do. The four village children sob softly...

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