28 May, 2010

Buffalo Soldiers Prelude

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike, Camp Bryant, Sioux Nation
To: Mrs. Hannelore West, Kingsport, Mass.
July 1877
Dearest Sister,
With all the weirdness going on in Eastwood Ridge, it was decided that we would continue to maintain a nightly watch lest anything untoward occur while we were sleeping. The night before we were to leave Eastwood I awoke late, lot having been alerted to my watch by Mr. Tobin. During his watch he had packed up his things and left, leaving us a note that he was taking the “short route” to Deadwood and that he would make arrangements for our arrival. As an unbalanced fellow prone to gunfire, I thought it might be for the best to spend some time away from his presence while he pursued his own agenda.
The next morning, our departure was again delayed. We thought to say goodbye to the tavern keeper but Miss Bowden the sister of one of the now dead deputies, was having a hysterical fit in the tavern. Mr. Pace, Mr. Bongiovi and I were all agreed that it would be best to ride on when she stormed out to confront us over the death of her brother. We were able to able to honestly say that we hadn’t seen what had occurred and speculated that it was some sort of dispute between the marshal and his deputies. We benefited greatly in the obfuscation by Mr. Tobin’s absence and were finally able to make our escape.
The road to Deadwood is paved with disappointment. The discovery of ghost rock in the Black Hills by Frank Bryant back in ’75 lead to a rush. Many of those camps and towns that grew overnight quickly disappeared when the Sioux asserted their authority over the land.  Since the town of Deadwood and the ghost rock that supports it continues, the towns on the trail to them have endured, if not as actual communities, at least as way stations.
I will refrain from using the colloquial “Ghost Town,” to describe the former town of Hot Spring as it is devoid of actual ghosts, in so far as we could determine in our brief stay. There were a few wooden foundations and outbuildings but most of the tents that had been the town had been packed up long ago. One building remained as a stagecoach station except that when we arrived it had been burned and there was no sign of the station keeper. A search revealed a number of unshod hoof prints, indicating that Indians might be responsible.
Rather than staying there and drawing attention to ourselves we rode on until nightfall and camped without a fire off the trail. Even so, Miss Bowden had been able to find us. She seemed intent on being our companion on our trip to Deadwood where she would meet with another of her brothers. She also grilled us again about the events surrounding the death of her brother. There was little we could do to prevent her from joining us.
The next day we rode on to Camp Bryant. Much like Hot Spring it was little more than a way station but unlike Hot Spring it was, as yet, unmolested. The old man (and why does it always seem to be old men attending these stations?) seemed less concerned that I would have thought at his neighbor having been burned out by Indians and the distinct possibility that his place may be next. He said he was expecting a stage through soon and we decided to wait. The stage never came but that evening we were attacked by Indians on horseback. Riding through the darkness they somewhat ineffectively launched flaming arrows at the building. Mr. Pace, from his vantage point on the roof fired a few rounds and down one of their ponies, which was sufficient to drive them off.
As I write this, it is the next day and the Indians have been showing themselves on a rise in the distance. The station attendant seemed intent to have us ride on, saying that he thought we should be able to continue and that he wouldn’t be bothered. I thought the man delusional for the natives had clearly shown their hostile intent the night before and would have the distinct advantage over us should we mount our horses and take to the open road. No, we were set to stay.
I have set a table out on the porch for a clear view with my pistol nearby. I have been trying to do some development work on my personal defense weapon but to advance that I will need some additional scientific apparatuses. Instead, I have alternated between writing this letter and sketching some other concepts. What do you think of the armored convenience on the next page? I have heard of so-called “war wagons” but an armored wagon leaves the horses exposed. What one would need is a self-propelled vehicle, much like a trackless train engine. It would need wide wheels to support the weight of the boilers and armored passenger compartment. Are the slopped sides and lighter armor adequate for deflecting bullets? Would the boilers provide enough power to propel its own weight at a sufficient speed over terrain? I seem to recall reading of a German producing an engine wherein gas is ignited within the drive cylinder rather than having externally heated steam drive the pistons. This strikes me as a much lighter and more efficient method. Would a stratified downdraft gassifier produce fuel quickly enough to drive the engine or would some sort of pressurized cylinder be necessary to hold the combustible gas? Carrying only the concentrated fuel, perhaps even if it could be liquefied, would save additional weight.
And, though things are somewhat tense, the fact that your are reading this proves that I have escaped relatively unscathed and have found enough civilization to post this letter to you. Fear not, for I shall write you again soon with news of my daring escape from marauding savages.
With fondest regards, your brother,
Zebulon
This adventure is one of several based loosely on the Pinnacle Entertainment one-sheet, Buffalo Soldiers. The adventure was run in Dec ’07 or Jan ’08. This write up was the product of Zebulon”s player, with some editing by yours truly.

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