November 17th, 1878
If things couldn’t get weirder, now we have a cursed bar and some ex-soldiers up to who-knows-what. And hey, where there’s a curse terrifying a whole trading post, there’s a crazy kid and her rat willing to ignore it…
Chigger woke Seri from her sleep in the hayloft of the barn. He told her a brief tale about an immortal goddess in the Nevernever who had five generals, one of whom was Joshua. These generals, he continued, were nearly immortal themselves, but every once in a while a series of fortunate events leaves them vulnerable, and occasionally the right people come together at the right time to make a difference.
He then scolded her for tempting fate by sleeping in the barn seconds before the Grinder tore the door from the hinges.
The Grinder, a huge creature of rock, charged into the barn and attacked Seri, killing a few horses in the process. After a prolonged battle in which the party’s attacks were mostly impotent against the creature, Jacob got some well-placed shots with his Ghost Rock Blaster and the creature drove into the ground and escaped.
The party lights a small fire near the tents to help wind down and keep watch. Chigger points out that the Grinder is either a creature of spirit, in which it will likely return for Seri, or a creature of nature, in which it will likely return for Jacob. He has a conversation in Navajo with Ahiga after which she seems extremely disturbed. He also appears to create strange patterns in the dust with a stick as he’s chatting with the party.
The party eventually decides they must deal with the curse, and choose to go north after the soldiers and their captives to find the witch who laid the curse upon the stockyards.
What broke down the barn door was unlike anything I have ever heard of before. I was starting to think it was not what I had thought; it was bigger, for one. It also did not look like an animal, but rather a figure made from stone. It was like something out of our legends, like Tsé dah Hódziiłtáłii or YéʼiitsohYéʼiitsoh.
I shot at it, hit it, but my arrow just shattered against its skin. The monster ignored my arrow, and charged into the barn, grabbed my horse, and threw it, I think, aiming for the rat girl. It missed, though, and the horse was thrown through the wall and out of the barn.
Then the others showed up, and that was when the fight really turned strange.
The Chinaman suddenly dove into the earth, disappearing into it. I had never seen or heard of anyone doing something like that before. He certainly never showed any signs of being a medicine man or a witch before. He popped up, hit the monster a few times, then backed off; it did not seem as if he did any damage either.
The exploding man was tossing green, glowing playing cards at the creature. The creature seemed to notice those, at least, and it seemed more and more to me like I was surrounded by witches of different kinds. It was him that the γát dìndé had wanted; I was starting to wonder if they had a good reason for their demands.
The rat girl who caused the trouble in the first place was tossing exploding sticks at the monster; they too looked like they at least hurt, though I am not sure how much damage they actually did.
And then, one of the other white men I had been travelling with for a day or so, poured something on his hands, then climbed up the wall of the barn as if he were a spider. He disappeared into the barn, but from the inside, he was firing green lightning on the monster. That, in the end, was what chased it away. It roared, and its roar sounded like a falling mountain, then dove into the earth, like the Chinaman had done, and disappeared.
We chased it away, not killed it. I am not sure we could have, but it ran away, so perhaps we, or should I say they, might have brought it down.
It seems none were hurt during the fight, and the woman who had come with us held up a dagger that she made glow. It lit up the area enough that we could at least take a look at how things looked. Then she went over to the tents, where someone made a fire, and people came over and sat down by it.
Afterwards, the man tending the horses came over to the fire. He spoke with the other men, and while he was doing that, he was drawing something in the dust. He might have been casting a spell or something, but it was far too complicated for someone to draw just like that. It looked like something that would take a proper ritual and proper sand, not just something someone jots down in the dust while he talks to people.
And that was not all. The pattern he drew was made up by ants marching along the pattern, making the lines for him. I had a suspicion, then.
I had wondered about him since we met him. He looked as if he were of the Anaasází. Since they died out generations ago, he could not have been, but he did look like it. And he spoke Diné bizaad, our own language, as if he was born to it. Since we were weeks away from our land, that alone told me quite a bit.
Yes, I knew it might be a mistake, but I could no longer keep quiet. So I asked him who he was, and he told me first that he was just a crazy man who smelled like horses. That, at least, was not the truth. At least not all of it. So I kept looking at him. Then he told me he was, perhaps the spirit of a dead people. Which might well have been the truth, or some of it.
And then he added that maybe he was a nine-hundred year old trickster god. And asked if it mattered. I should have said nothing, then. He had already noticed me more than was safe. But I told him that if he were that last, he should know it mattered.
I told the others not to trust Him. Dangerous that, but He must have expected it. After all, He did tell me who He was. Had He claimed to be someone else, I might not have believed it, but I do not think anyone else would have claimed to be Him.
It seemed He wanted us to go after the old witch, the one who cursed the settlement with the monster. I had already decided that we needed to, or I, at least. That monster was dangerous, and we had fought it. And as He said, it now had rat girl’s scent, and might keep hunting her. Since she, or her rat, was my guide, I could not let that happen.
You all know what to do if you are travelling, and he crosses your path. You turn back. Keep travelling, and something terrible will happen to you. An accident, perhaps, and you will get hurt or killed. So I should have turned back then, returned home.
Except there was no home, not anymore. And I was looking for my shich’ooní, my wife. While she might still be alive, I could not go back, even if He crossed my path. And you know, for I have told you before, that I grew up among the Chisi, the people that the white men call Chiricahua. They have other stories of Him. That sometimes, he is helpful to people.
So perhaps he wanted to help, this time. Why? I did not know. But I kept thinking of those Chisi stories, and I decided that the only way I could find my wife, was to continue on my way. Even if it meant carrying on after He crossed my path.
After He left, the others started asking what I knew. Had they paid attention, they would have noticed the pattern, and realised He was not what He seemed. Of course, none of the ones I was travelling with were what they seemed, but this was different. I tried telling them that, but they did not quite understand. I even told them He was not human, but I am still not sure they understood just what they were dealing with.
At least it was winter. You all know some things are only spoken about during winter. This is one of them. I could tell them some things, in the morning. Though whether they would believe me, I had no way of knowing. So I told them, some things are not meant to be discussed at night.
That was when we heard the scream. Far far away, we heard a scream, a scream of pain, and it sounded as if a mountain was falling.
From the journal of Holden Cain
November 16th, 1878
The trip to Abilene is about as exciting as I’d have expected, travelling through the cold, Kansas countryside. In other words, it was as boring as watching grass grow… only cold and miserable. I did learn a few things, at least. First, according to Onesimus, the girl’s parents died in a fire and she’s an orphan.
Secondly, Onesimus isn’t too bright. That Chinaman babbled something at me that sounded like “Fwied Wice”, so Onesimus figured my name is “Fred Royce”. I guess that blinding level of intellect is why he’s a government agent.
Third, the Indian’s name is Chissi. That’s at least useful to know since he’s not one of the Indians that want to kill me, at least. Then again, he was all sorts of willing to turn my ass over to the Indians that do want to kill me, so to hell with him.
Anyway, on towards late afternoon we arrived at someplace called the Dover’s Cottage out at the Abilene stockyards, where we were to stop for the evening. Funny thing about the place is that there were tents in front of all the buildings, one of which had its door busted in. That particular building was full of blood. As we found out from the bartender Al, it seems that some former Confederate soldiers, led by someone named Captain Dane, had come through “escorting” a group of what he thinks were Swedish folks. Anyway, one of these Swedes got himself shot and his mother put a curse on the place, saying that anyone who slept under a roof would be ground to dust or something. And apparently this old bat knows her curses, since that’s pretty much what happened to one of the folks here. Although ground to a bloody pulp sounds more accurate.
Well, these soldiers left four men behind to sort of keep an eye out, and we met them. They took a liking to Patton since he served in the Confederate army, so things stayed friendly, although they rub me the wrong way so I wouldn’t have been heartbroken to see something horrible befall them. Maybe I should’ve convinced them to sleep under a roof or something. They did invite us to a poker game, and these idiots had cash coming out of their ass. From what I was able to get out of them, I think that their boss, Dane, has found a mine of some sort and is using the Swedes to work it. Anyway, after all was said and done, we decided to delay our trip to Abilene and go see if we can get this old lady to lift the curse on the place. And since the group she was with just happened to be heading to a mine, maybe I can make a bit of cash on this. For now, though, time to go sleep in a tent in the cold Kansas night… yay.
Later: Dammit! Whatever the hell is watching over that girl was about as useful as tits on a boar tonight. Girl believed in the curse and wouldn’t sleep under a roof, but then she went and slept in the barn… which of course has a roof! And the Grinder, which is what the people here are calling the thing that shows up due to the curse, made its appearance. The damned thing looked like a chunk of the earth got up and started walking around. And for some fool reason, I decided to get involved and see if I could stop it. I hit it, hard, with a Soul Blast and it sure as hell felt it, but managed to shake it off. The Chinaman tried punching it, so now I know he’s crazy. That worked about as well as you’d have expected. Chissi shot a few arrows at it, and that also worked about as well as you’d have expected. The little girl threw dynamite at it (turns out she’s got a sack full of it), and unfortunately that didn’t work, either.
Fortunately, Jacob has this weird gun thing, and that DID work, so chalk one up for crazy science, I guess. Took a few shots from it, but the Grinder finally went away… straight into the earth. And no one was hurt, aside from some of the horses.
We decided after that that we’re definitely going to have to go get the old lady to lift the curse. Chigger, this weird Indian ranch hand at the stockyards, said he thinks the Grinder’s the sort of thing that’d either keep going after the girl, since that was what it was here for, or go after Jacob, since he hurt it. Or maybe it’ll go after both. Either way, I guess I’m definitely in this now. Jacob had my back once already, so it’s the least I could do. And I still don’t know what’s up with the girl, but… hell, it doesn’t quite sit right with me to let the Grinder get her, either.
One curious note… that Chigger fellow freaks out Chissi. He believes that Chigger isn’t what he seems, maybe not even human. But he won’t say exactly what he thinks Chigger is. At any rate, the only thing I noticed about Chigger is that he was drawing some awfully complex diagrams in the dirt without even looking at them. I don’t think they were just random doodles… too complex and too precise. But they’re also nothing I’m familiar with. Anyway, time to worry about that later. I need to get some sleep before we go rescue some Swedes from some ex-Confeds and get some crazy old witch lady to lift a curse she laid down.
How the hell do I get myself into this shit?
*jotted in a tattered book*
I’ve no idea what horror was conjured tonight. The Good Lord saw fit to protect
us, but that hideous cry in the distance confirms my fear – we didn’t destroy
whatever monster came into that barn.
I’m no warrior. I couldn’t save Gregory, rest his soul, and I doubt if I could
do much against the soldiers holding the woman who laid this curse. But I cannot in good conscience leave these people to suffer the winter outdoors. What small gifts the Lord grants me, I must use. So after her we go.
Thanks be to God that I’m not alone. This little company of ours is odd, to say the least, but having William here is reassuring. So for now, I’ll do what I can to help all of them. Any evil we can rectify is a victory for the Lord, even if I can’t say that every soul here walks in the Light.
*scrawled in the margins*