“Man, does everyone in this area have mines running underground on their property?” Roland asked while kicking around some stones at the mine’s entrance.
“Well, Brimstone and the area surrounding it was set up for mining many years back,” answered Red. “Almost everyone that lived here, and those that still do, own mining property. This place was gonna be the next big ticket for lots of people out here, honey.”
“Yeah, then they just had to find the dark stone, huh?” Roland kicked another stone and watched it tumble deeper into the mine.
“Look,” interjected Courderoy, “people are traveling out here to try and rebuild what’s left of Brimstone. These mines may have brought some crazy things since findin’ that dark stone, but it’s also brought plenty of work. So, long as we keep our noses clean and guns loaded we should be able to make enough gold to not have a worry about this place for a long time.”
“Hey, I’m not arguin’ with that notion,” replied Roland.
Courderoy then turned back in the direction of the mine’s corridor. They’d only just cleared out the shafts on Mr. Montague’s property not but a week before. The posse spent some time back in town and enjoyed a good time with their earnings, but there was still work to be done. With all the posse was doing, word was spreading that the “Mine Cleaners” were in town to help the people. Word doesn’t take long to spread in small towns, so before long the posse found themselves with more work than they could handle.
This time they’d gotten into a hotter pot of water than before. A well-to-do couple had purchased some land after hearing about Montague’s good fortunes and it just so happened that they’d stumbled on a small mine toward the rear of their stake. The difference with this land, however, was that much nastier stuff was happening in this neck of the woods. It appeared that some sort of portal was opened and darkness had been spilling out at all times of the day. No cattle could be raised on the land, for hellhounds and terrors would tear them apart, leaving nothing by the morning. After hearing word travel the couple sent out for the “Mine Cleaners” and the posse found themselves with another paying gig on their hands.
They weren’t the first to travel down this way, though, as they found out when they took the job. It would seem that the well-to-do couple, known now as the Frenchtons, hired a group with a preacher to head down first, assuming the local man of faith could seal the open portal using God’s word alone. The mine wasn’t near as big as the one on Mr. Montague’s property, but the first search team hadn’t been seen in nearly four days, so the Frenchtons called the cavalry.
Now the posse had found themselves at the mouth of another mine, this one crawling with more monsters and horrors than they’d ever seen before. “We’ll pay you double what we offered the other team,” said Bartholomew Frenchton, the ringleader of the Frenchton family. Theirs is the steel business, and there’s no doubt they’ll try and get this mine up and running again once the cleaning crew is finished with it. Ole’ Bart took over the family business just five years prior when his father, Walter Frenchton, suffered a terrible train accident. It’s been half a decade, but some people are still questioning how Walter didn’t notice the big steamer revving its engine to reverse on the tracks, trapping him beneath it.
“Alright,” said Courderoy, “we don’t know what’s coming out of this mine for sure, but we got to find that portal and shut it down. Word from the church is that there’s some book the preacher man carried on him that should tell us how to shut that thing down for good. So let’s get going, and remember: stay together.”
Even though the posse stayed in town for a few nights longer than expected, no one had really stocked up on anything. From the group’s last excursion they managed to pick up quite a few sticks of dynamite, which Courderoy thought would very much come in handy. Aside from that, Roland had his new other-worldly pistol, and Red managed to pick up a repeating hold out pistol, which certainly came in handy when the posse got jumped. Roland decided to focus on carrying the Plasma Arc since he could get more shots off with it, and it conserved ammo. No one in the group was too sure how the thing worked, but they were ever grateful it did.
Lynette held her hunting rifle up above her head. “Well, I ain’t carryin’ this here thing for nothin’! I’ll head up front and see what I can see. Maybe I’ll get to shoot somethin’ without Roland knockin’ everything dead this time.” She moved up toward the front of the group, Courderoy’s eyes planted firmly on her frame.
Roland just smiled and motioned her to move ahead.
After several twists and turns the group came to yet another broken lift room with gunpowder and dynamite barrels scattered throughout the area.
Red shot Courderoy a look. “Don’t you get any ideas Courderoy McCreedy. I don’t plan to be a damsel in distress this time around and you don’t need to be a hero.”
Courderoy laughed. “Don’t worry, miss. Even though it would seem fate put us in this situation again, once is enough for me.”
“Amen to that,” Lynette heard herself say out loud. She blushed.
Courderoy didn’t raise his eyes to meet her, but he smiled nonetheless. He held the lantern out far so the room would come into light. He squinted toward the back of the room, which only had one exit to the northeast. Ever so faintly he heard some muffled sounds coming from the exit. With shotgun planted firmly in his hand he stepped forward. “This way,” he mentioned.
The posse walked through the chamber, careful not to tamper with any of the things in the room that might explode. They walked through the exit to the room and into a small hallway that opened up to a much larger chamber. With the lantern in hand, Courderoy could make out some flickering light in the room. When the posse got closer he noticed the light was coming from candles placed on the chamber’s floor. In between the candles was a crudely-drawn circle, complete with scattered symbols in chalk.
Further inside the chamber, in the middle of the circle, lay five bodies. One of them was dressed in a priest’s garb. Courderoy held the lantern up high for the posse to see.
“Looks like we found the welcoming committee,” said Roland.
Just then sounds filled the room. It was as if all of a sudden the chamber came alive all around the posse. Up from the ground, surrounding the group, came dark blue tentacles. Writhing back and forth, the tentacles tore the earth in their wake, sprouting up like deathly tendrils in the dark. A few of the tentacles took swings at the posse, though they weren’t quite close enough to make contact.
As if that weren’t enough, the click-clacking of tiny legs hitting the dirt floor could be heard coming behind the tentacles.
“Oh great,” Roland muttered, “we gotta deal with those insects too!?”
Courderoy tucked the lantern away on his belt and readied his shotgun. He looked up to the girls. “You two ready to rumble?” He cocked his shotgun and took aim.
“Like ya’ need to ask,” replied Lynette, and she fired of a shot. The bullet’s aim was true, and it tore through one of the void spiders before it could make any gain toward the posse. Swinging down, she readied the weapon and fired again, knocking another spider off its many legs. She continued, each shot hitting in succession. Courderoy caught himself admiring her near perfect form.
Red reached for her hold out pistol and took aim. Figuring Lynette had the spiders contained, she took aim at one of the tentacles. It looked as if it were ready to reach out and snap one of their necks in twain. She brought up the hold out pistol and fired two shots rapidly at the flailing tendril. Both shots found their target, and the tentacle snapped right in half before falling to the ground.
“Nice shot babe,” Roland said as he took aim with his Plasma Arc. He lined up the shot, gripped the futuristic weapon tightly, and pulled the trigger. Nothing. Not even a spark. Shocked, he shook the thing, smacking his left hand against its side, as if to shake the shots loose. He glared over at Courderoy. “Dammit McCreedy! You bought me a broken toy gun!”
Courderoy was in between shots and answered Roland, “It wasn’t broken, and for what I paid it surely ain’t no toy! Now fix it and get to blasting!” The U.S. Marshall dropped two tentacles with well-placed buckshot.
Still struggling, Roland took a closer look at the gun. He noticed a switch on the side that showed a red light. He flipped the switch and it turned green. Almost instantly energy shot from the Plasma Arc right into the group of enemies. Luckily Roland was thoughtful enough to take aim with the gadget quickly, which allowed him to bounce a couple of shots between tentacles and a few void spiders, removing them from the fight.
“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Roland said with a smile.
The group seemed to be getting the upper hand in the fight, when out of nowhere a tentacle came out of the darkness and smashed into Red’s stomach. The crash sent her backwards, landing hard in the dirt. Roland rushed to her aid and, while pulling her with one hand, he sent another volley of energy shots in the direction of the tentacle. One shot missed and ricocheted off of two advancing void spiders, and the other shot nearly disintegrated the tentacle where it stood.
Lynette dropped low, careful to take aim, and took out the rest of the advancing spiders before they could get the drop on the posse. Roland got Red back to her feet and Courderoy used his last two shots to take down the final tentacle that was reaching toward the group. The shotgun blast tore a whole half of the tentacle clean off and it fell to the ground, lifeless.
“Everybody alright?” asked Courderoy.
Red was shaking the dirt off of the back of her dress when she replied, “Yes, I’m fine. Thanks to my Roland, of course.”
Roland holstered the Plasma Arc, making sure not to hit any buttons by mistake. “My pleasure as always, m’dear.”
“Lynette, you okay?” Courderoy asked the rancher.
“I’m good, I’m good,” she answered.
“Nice shooting there, Tex,” Roland smiled over at Lynette. He helped dust off Red’s dress, paying quite more attention to her backside than need be.
“Thanks,” Lynette replied. “It was nice to get to use this gun for once.”
Courderoy put his shotgun across his back and walked up to the group of bodies scattered in the middle of the chamber. This was definitely the search party. It looked like three men of the law, the priest, and one man that looked to be of an Indian tribe. Probably a scout, Courderoy thought to himself. He bent down and started rifling through the bodies to see what he could find.
Finally finished with helping Red, Roland reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. It was the bounty poster the group picked up in town. “Well, at least we’ll come out of this mess with some cash! Ten gold for every tentacle we drop.” He counted the slumped flesh that was all that remained of the tentacles, including the holes where they appeared. “That’s sixty gold right there!” He marked on the back of the bounty poster with a pencil.
“What are you doing?” Lynette asked in the direction of Courderoy.
“Well,” Courderoy answered while rooting through the priest’s wrappings, “from what I can tell this is the search party that went in before us. That being said, they must have something we can use to get further into this whole deal.” He rolled the man over and gazed at the item lying underneath. It was a book, leather-bound and covered with the same symbols as drawn on the floor in chalk. Courderoy lifted the book in his hands and stood up, flipping through it.
“Well? Find anything useful?” Roland asked.
Courderoy turned to the posse, showing them the book. “Oh, you know, just the thing that’s going to help us seal this place up real tight.”
To be continued…