To: Mrs. Hannelore West, Kingsport, Mass.
Several days without drama have allowed me to complete my project! From the drawings I’ve included, you should see that I began with the foundation of a shotgun barrel that, with some hardwood accents and brass fittings, appears to be little more than an elaborate gentleman’s cane. Inside, however, I have concealed a cartridge with a chemical concoction which is ejected through a high-pressure nozzle by means of a coiled spring acting on a piston. The release mechanism also activates a firing pin against a standard percussion cap, igniting the semi-fluid on expulsion. It should generate a ten to fifteen foot cone of flame, persisting for several seconds.
I am terribly excited to try it out but have not yet had the opportunity to test it. The chemical formula is absolutely sound and mostly stable. I am pleased with the physical design, even though my mastery of the intricacies of mechanical design lag somewhat behind yours. I hope our family’s natural proclivity overcome this deficiency. The need to have a larger aperture for the expulsion of the flammable fluid does increase the risk of the ignition reaching back into the reservoir, thus causing a catastrophic explosion, but there should be sufficient pressure to keep that from occurring.
What to name it? Linear Expulsive Conflagrationator is appropriately descriptive but I’m not sure I like it. Conflagrator? Conflagrationizer? You are so much better at this than I am, what do you think?
Just a moment, there seems to be some sort of commotion occurring outside.
. . . . . .
Well then, that was an interesting few days. It began with several riders coming into town. They were two of the soldiers that had set out last week to address the issue of Indians burning stagecoach waystations. One of the soldiers was dead in his saddle, pierced by several arrows, and the other, also grievously wounded, died soon afterwards. Uttering his dying breath to me; “Gold.”
It was clear that it was no Indian attack that had lead to the death of the soldiers as there was the distinctly modern construction methods utilized in the construction of the arrows embedded in the returning soldiers. This is not to say that arrows of Indian manufacture are primitive or substandard in any way, but these arrows bore signs of industrial manufacture.
Mr. Tobin, Mr. Pace, Mr. Bongiovi and I immediately joined the military expedition formed to determine the fate of the previous force. We, however, had very different expectations and objectives. Firstly, while we didn’t announce our conclusions, we knew that we were not looking for a band of Indians but were, in fact, looking for individuals pretending to be Indians. Secondly, and I was unsure if the others were aware, I made the connection between this incident, the burned waystations and the Confederate gold found by Marshal Kane at Eastwood Ridge. I had little doubt that there was gold, or at least someone thought there was gold, at the waystations. Thirdly, we did not pass on the dying words of the soldier to his comrades on the highly likely suspicion that the soldiers had raced off earlier, not to deal with a perceived Indian threat, but to secure the gold. While I suspected the military was involved it was important to have them think that we were ignorant of the true reasons.
The first day of our expedition was uneventful. The waystation at Silver City was burned to the ground, as was expected. (Silver City is not directly on the trail to Deadwood but is a “spur trail” several miles East of the main where, as the name implies, there was once a silver mine. We had not taken the spur on our way North and had only assumed its condition.)
That night, many of my suspicions were confirmed when during the night I observed the Sergeant uncharacteristically make a wide, patrolling arc around the burned out shell of the waystation. Feigning biology’s call, I surreptitiously watched him investigating behind the building in a way that had me conclude that there was a hole behind this building as well. It was not something he might have stumbled upon and apparently he found nothing contained within.
The next day and the next waystation was as the others. We followed the soldier’s tracks up a valley into the dread scene of an ambush. Soldiers were strewn about in various inadequate cover apparently having been set upon from all sides. While there were Indian implements of war to be found, all the soldiers had been clearly brought down by modern firearms.
Our expectation was that we would follow the tracks into an ambush of our own so we divided our column to proceed up each bank of the stream. There is a strange sense of confidence one has walking into a known trap. A sense that was not wasted for, when the ambush came, our divided staging allowed us to disrupt their plan and out flank them. When the first shots rang out, I took what cover I could but with Mr. Tobin firing from across the stream, I was able to advance quickly and confidently, holding my fire until I was close upon our attackers.
Their tactical plan circumvented, they fled before I could inflict any direct harm. With their killing of the soldiers and realizing that these types of miscreants are those likely to hold a lengthy grudge, I vowed not to let them escape and rushed back to my horse to give chase. Mr. Pace and I set off after a trio of villains. One was killed instantly by a rifle shot from Mr. Pace’s rifle. A second fell wounded from his horse with a sickening sound that indicated his neck had broken in the fall. The last I chased for more than a mile before I was able to land a bullet into his kidney.
A search of our attackers found no gold, at which point I confronted the Sergeant concerning his suspicious activities of the night before. Even with some creative persuasions, he admitted nothing directly but his obfuscations made it clear that he and, in fact, all the other soldiers, knew at least part of what was going on. There were now at least four parties involved. Those associated with Marshal Kane and the Bowden family who were attempting to recover the gold. Competitors who were dressing up as Indians in an attempt to recover the gold. The soldiers who also knew of the gold. And, lastly, our own intrepid band that providence had dropped into the middle of this bloody feud. And while I cannot deny that the recovery of the gold would be a welcome windfall, our primary concern is one of survival.
The soldiers had been fairly devastated but, as it was the military, there was no telling how many others might be involved. Our interference had probably eliminated the faux-Indians as competitors. With additional prodding of the Sergeant, we were lead to a small mine at the head of the run. The miners there were ignorant dupes, tricked into digging a worthless hole as a cover for gold found elsewhere. Not a bad plan for I was considering a similar ruse to explain the gold that we had found.
After having been ambushed, it was our turn to set up such a trap and the miners told us that their “sponsor” Mr. Kane was coming. Yes, another Kane involved in this convolution. I realize now that I have gone on at quite a length and the hour is getting late so I will summarize; there was a gunfight. By our combined efforts the evil-doers were vanquished and I emerged unscathed. We hid the bodies in the mine and dynamited the entrance. More soldiers arrived and we lied to them thoroughly. The Captain of the unit was a gentleman of Virginia so we suspected him immediately of some collusion in the hiding of the Confederate gold. We returned to Deadwood.
This is a quite lengthy letter, isn’t it. Had I taken writing accouterments with me on our expedition, I would have written more regularly and this limited the length of these narratives to more manageable fragments. Even though I know you love to read, I fear the realities of frontier life will not measure up to the scientific romances you enjoy so much. Even with the gunfights and preternatural occurrence that I fear reduce my real-life adventures to the level of dime novels.
As I now have something of a permanent address, I look forward eagerly to your return letters.
With unsuppressed fondness,
your brother, Zebulon
This adventure is one of several based loosely on the Pinnacle Entertainment one-sheet, Buffalo Soldiers. The adventure, the fifth of our campaign, was run in early 2008. This write up was the product of Zebulon”s player, with minor editing by yours truly.