Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Wild West Campaign Report: The Great Horse Race Part II
The second part of our great race from Dodge City to Cheyenne actually started out hundreds of miles south and a couple of weeks in the past. Deputy Young (a PC who had not been at the last session) was out on a manhunt with Wyatt Earp (who was once more given a temporary US Marshall's badge). They were after a ne'er-do-well called Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, who had stolen $2000 from a Santa Fe Railroad construction camp.
They'd gone all the way down to Fort Griffin, Texas, where Young got to witness a real historical event: the first ever meeting between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
Earp had tracked Dirty Dave to Fort Griffin, and when he got there went to see an old friend from Earp's days as a whorehouse bouncer, who was now running a saloon. He asked his friend about Rudabaugh, and his friend pointed him to a half-drunk gambler who was a known associate of Dave's. This was Doc Holliday.
Now, Young already knew Holliday from his brief visit to Dodge last year (when Earp was away); so he managed to act as an introduction between the two men. They stared each other down for a little while, and then Holliday (apparently deciding that there was something about Earp that made him worth treating differently from how he'd treat most lawmen, maybe the fact that Earp wasn't afraid of him) revealed that Dave had headed back north to Kansas, in exchange for Earp's assurance that Dave would be taken in alive. He also told him that Dave's gang had double-crossed him and were somewhere in the north.
Earp didn't think that much of Doc, but took him at his word, and got in touch with Dodge; and soon learned that Dave was now in custody and his gang was in a small town in Wyoming. Earp and Young headed off to catch Dirty Dave's gang and the stolen money.
Meanwhile, the race continues, and with several of the Well-Fargo waystations having been raided, Miller and Smith's teams were considering going off-trail to the town of Goodland, hoping to find desperately-needed supplies to allow them to finish the race. While Billy Houston and Penelope the mule set off over open country in the hope of shaving off 100km of distance to give them a fighting chance of winning.
Smith gets far enough ahead to run into Spike Kenedy and his men; he learns that Kenedy was almost certainly responsible for the raids on the wells-fargo waystations. He also realizes that Kenedy is planning to do something bad to one of the other racers; putting Smith in a position of either having him chase after Miller (who is Smith's friend, and who is behind him) or Zeke (who is ahead of him, and who Smith barely knows). He chooses the latter.
Meanwhile, Miller plus both Miller and Smith's buckboard teams cut out toward Goodland. Along the way, they find Zeke's corpse. Apparently, someone got to him before Kenedy.
Earp and Young are on the way to Goodland as well, and they end up running into Zeke's buckboard drivers, heading across open country toward Denver, and pulling Zeke's champion horse "Lightning" behind them. Earp and Young know nothing about the race, and they have absolutely no idea that these two men were hired by the owner of the Bar-T ranch to murder their own rider and had now stolen the champion horse. They're about to let the men pass, until Young notices something a bit fishy about their story, and suddenly the men start to draw. Earp and Young are two of the best shots in the west though (Young is actually slightly BETTER than Earp, though less famous) and both men are dead in seconds.
Miller and the two buckboard teams get to Goodland, but quickly realize something is off. The townsfolk are all terrified, and they're met by four cowboys who are pretending to be townsfolk but clearly aren't. But John Joshua Webb, the psychopath that's riding on the buckboard with Kid Taylor, recognizes the men as part of Dirty Dave's gang and gives them a friendly welcome, defusing tensions. They agree to let the teams supply and stay the night. Miller and Taylor realize something bad is up but can't afford to take any action, especially knowing that there's even odds that Webb will take the outlaws' side.
Early next morning, Webb wakes Taylor up; he's got their buckboard ready, and they drag the notoriously late-sleeping Miller onto it, driving his horse Brimstone behind it and heading out of town. As he glances back, Taylor realizes that Webb has set the stable (with Smith's buckboard) on fire. Later it'll become clear that Webb also murdered one of the drivers ("knuckles"; though he spared the other, Hank, on account of Hank being Miller and Smith's employee).
When they get back on the trail and intersect with Smith at the waystation, Smith is livid at finding out that Miller (and Taylor) abandoned Hank in a town under the control of an outlaw gang. But if he turns back now, he'll be all but handing Miller the race. He decides to press on.
Meanwhile, Kid Taylor and John Joshua Webb proceed along in the buckboard, and run into a half-dozen of the Kenedy men. Rather than get closer to them and try to talk their way out of it, they settle on deciding to engage in a 3-to-1 gunfight, jumping out of the wagon and ducking behind some cover. Incredibly, in a shootout that last about six seconds, they end up downing three of the men and chasing the rest away, with no injury to themselves other than a shot that hits Webb's holster.
After Webb brutally murders the fallen, he suggests that it would not be good for their long-term health if the survivors who'd fled should get back to Kenedy and inform the richest man in the west that they had managed to kill some of his ranch-hands and potentially cost him the race. So while Taylor presses on in the buckboard, Webb heads off on one of the Kenedy horses to systematically hunt down the men who'd escaped the gunfight. Taylor is relieved to be rid of the psycho.
Wyatt Earp and Jeff Young get to Goodland, and find the members of Dirty Dave's gang, who confront the two lawmen while using Hank and some of the town's womenfolk as human shields. For a moment, it looks like some brutal gunplay will be happening there too, but Earp manages to intimidate the four outlaws into laying down their arms and surrendering, by making it clear that innocents in the way or not, he has no intention of stopping if he has to skin his gun.
They take their prisoners, plus Hank, and head off toward Cheyenne.
The last day of the race ends up being nail-bitingly close. Smith (on Meteor), Miller (on Brimstone) and Billy Houston (on Jacqueline the Mule) all get in eyeshot of Cheyenne at the same time. There's a mad dash for the finish line, and Miller ends up winning by no more than 20ft.
There's a huge party, the men all get their names in the national papers, Miller gives some of his $500 prize money to Billy (after making up some excuse as to why it's not 'charity'), and all is just about well that ends well. Except that Billy finds out that while the race was going on, back in Dodge, Morgan Earp resigned his lawman job and ran off with Billy's sister Louisa to parts unknown!
The things we do for a woman:
Oh, and Dirty Dave? He snitched on his traitorous gang, and managed to get off a free man, back on the streets of Dodge.
Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400-series + C&D's Pirate Kake