Our tale began in Dodge City, Kansas, 1876. The Civil War continues to rage on in this world despite it having ended in 1865 in our world. The Sioux Indian tribes have reclaimed much of the territory in the Dakotas, and the Great Rail Wars claim many lives in the name of expansion west and greed for the strange super-mineral known as “ghost rock”. And there are things that go “bump” in the night…
In the middle of the continent and the Civil War stands Kansas, one of the Disputed Territories, owing allegiance to neither the Union or Confederacy, and it is a hotbed of political intrigue and fear. A perfect place to begin.
Fleeing justice in the Confederacy for card-sharping and general misanthropy come the Nighthawk brothers, Leo and “Ruckus”. Stepping off the train to Dodge City, the two brothers cut an imposing figure. Ruckus is a large, burly man bristling with firearms, a mean sneer and a worse attitude. His brother Leo is the runt of the litter, but makes up for it with a powerful wit and an even more powerful secret.
The two brothers set up lodgings in the Occidental Saloon, and quickly clean out a group of miners and buffalo hunters of their hard earned money. Leo almost found himself in a fight, but his massive brother saw to quashing any thoughts of violence. Soon after, the Nighthawks enjoyed the fruits of their labor with good beer, cheap cigars and loose women.
Little did they know that they would soon be involved in strange events…
After the Nighthawk brothers made a splash on the local bar scene in Dodge, the dusty trails were about to yield a new player on our stage.
Upon a pale horse he came, lines in his face betraying old age, but movements like water. The Holy Bible in his pocket stands in sharp contrast to the lever-action rifle on his back. His title is that of a Reverend, but he administers to no flock. His name is Sebastian Dallas.
The grizzled reverend was on a hunt, but not for buffalo or outlaws. And, he quickly discovered, someone was hunting for him as well.
The Reverend spoke to the shadows, “I prefer to meet my friends and enemies face to face. Which one are you?”
She appeared out of the dust and shadowy places of Dodge, dressed in fine animal skins, tanned and leathery. Her delicate features were underscored by a pair of smoky almond eyes that gave off a hint of spiritual power. Her reddish-bronze skin and tribal markings revealed her as one of the Northern Cheyenne tribes. She regraded the old man of God and spoke, in fluent Oxford English…
“My name is Walks With Moonlight, and it is curious to see a man of God who carries a rifle.”
The Reverend replied, “Rev. Sebastian Dallas, ma’am. And I walk with the Good Book in one hand and a rifle in the other. Such is our world, these days.”
The young woman knew the Reverend from dreams. A vision quest showed her this man’s face, and visions of horrors to come. She knew this man was important, though she knew not why. In a friendly gesture, Walks With Moonlight asked the Reverend to find her at the Occidental Saloon if he should have need of her. The cryptic words haunted the Reverend as the young Cheyenne turned to leave, and he proceeded into town.
The Tombstone Epitaph has two reputations. One for being a ridiculous rag of tabloid journalism. The others who knew the truth about the world regarded the Epitaph as the only beacon of truth in the Weird West. And the good Reverend was the latter. Skimming thru the pages of the Epitaph for local stories, one in particular leaped out.
“Body Snatchers Strike Again! This time taking the body of poor Mrs. Edna Berkowitz of Dodge City, the gang known as the Body Snatchers had one witness this time, a Fred Duncan, the local gravedigger. When questioned, Mr. Duncan told the Epitaph:
‘I seen ’em! Weren’t no man! Had purple skin, they did, with horrible yellow eyes….and the STINK! My God, the stink of this critter. Dragged ol’ Mrs. Berkowitz out of her grave, poor soul. Everyone thinks ol’ Fred is just a drunk, but I seen the damn thing wit’ my own two eyes!’"
As the Reverend perused this story and decided whether or not it was worth merit, a voice asked, “You actually read that trash, Reverend?”
A tall, lean figure whose eyes were closed by the sun, with a thousand-yard stare and a commanding voice addressed the Reverend. To the star on his coat to the long-barreled Colt Buntline on his hip, the man extended a hand to the wayward Reverend.
“Marshal Wyatt Earp. Who might you be?”
After a few pleasantries, fair warnings about civil order in the town and knowledge of the upcoming town square festival were passed between the Reverend and the legendary lawman, the Reverend set about to trying to find Fred Duncan to learn more about these Body Snatchers.
Meanwhile, at the Occidental, Walks With Moonlight was checking into her favorite saloon when she was catcalled by the newest arrivals, Leo and Ruckus, the latter of which was now deeply in his cups. Walks With Moonlight quickly, albeit temporarily, silenced the rowdy pair with a few well-placed throwing knives to the beer glasses in front of them. Clearly, Moonlight wasn’t just a pretty face.
Marshal Earp arrived shortly after and asked about two ruffians who were intimidating miners during a card game. The Nighthawk brothers played dumb, and Marshal Earp left them be, for the moment.
During this time, the Reverend located and questioned the gravedigger about the “Body Snatchers”, while also giving him a stern lesson about the evils of drink. The Reverend contented himself with going on stakeout of the graveyard.
Later, Frank Duncan found himself at the Occidental, heeding not the Reverend’s scolding. A few wallops, drinks, and misadventures later, the Nighthawks and Walks With Moonlight found themselves on the same hunt as the Reverend.
Later, after the town festival went into full swing, the four met up at the Dodge City Graveyard. After a few moments of pawing around, Walks With Moonlight discovered tracks leading from the disturbed grave of Mrs. Berkowitz to a gnarled oak tree in the boneyard. The tracks were unnerving: Three fingers ending in vicious looking claws.
The gnarled tree seemed to be from a hellish netherworld, and Walks found a hole at the base of its twisted roots. Tossing a torch down into the hole, Walks and her erstwhile companions prepared for the worst.
Screeching and spitting out of the hole it came, twisted and unnatural. Its putrid yellow eyes flashed with a ravenous hunger as ichor and fluids dripped from its fanged mouth. It had a body like a large, shaven purple ape with jagged claws for hands. The stink it gave off was enough to momentarily stagger our heroes, and it lunged for Leo, slashing his favorite tailor-made suit, but narrowly avoiding flesh and bone.
Walks With Moonlight attacked swiftly, burying a dagger into the beast’s flesh, and the good Reverend opened fire with his rifle. The ghoul’s arm was severed with the blast, disintegrating the limb into a foul-smelling brown puddle. The ghoul turned and fled, but Walks would have her kill. She pinned the beast to the ground with another well-placed knife, and finally Ruckus got into the act, silencing the ghoul forever with a blast of shotgun fire to the head. The ghoul then dissolved into another puddle of ooze.
Only Leo was shaken by the ghoul’s unnatural presence, but he quickly regained his wits enough to ask what the hell that was!
Before anyone could answer him, a mob of frightened Dodge City folk ran into the graveyard, attracted by gunfire and led my Marshal Earp himself. Taking no chances, the lawman quickly demanded the release of weapons, and swiftly gave the Reverend one of his famous “buffaloes”: a pistol-whip to the head.
The four found themselves in a jail cell being questioned by Marshal Earp, charged with breaking a city ordinance and general lawlessness. For all the Marshal knew, the posse were the “Body Snatchers” themselves. The posse began regaling the Marshal with tales of ghouls and the forces of evil, but with the ghoul’s body being dissolved into putrid liquid, the Marshal had a hard time believing such a wild tale.
Finally, after much debate, Earp investigated the graveyard again, this time returning with definitive evidence: shot pellets, knives, and rifle rounds in a pile of ooze. At the Reverend’s request, Earp deputized the posse as special troubleshooters on the spot, with the task of rooting out and destroying the ghouls…