Session Summary #9a -- "New Heroes"

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Hangin' Judge
Dead Lands Session Summary #9-A: New Heroes

In between regular sessions, I ran three "mini-sessions" to help get three new characters started. Chronology-wise, these events would actually predate the events of Session #9.

A lone Mountie has traveled far south in pursuit of a criminal by the name of Mike Harris, and during his travels, he ends up in the settlement of Clearwater, Oklahoma, which happens to be located along what was once known as the Chisholm Trail. This Mountie, Samuel Steele, finds out from the locals that there has been a problem with large mutant "wall-crawlers" that have been dragging off cattle and -- in some cases -- people, to the aptly (if uncreatively) named Dead Man's Canyon.

Steele agrees to investigate the canyon, and heads off on his trusty steed, Cretien (named after Canada's "greatest prime minister"). There, he is attacked by a wall-crawler (a large bug/lizard/scorpion mutant hybrid) that leaps down from the canyon walls, but Steele manages to shove his gun down the gullet of the creature and double-tap several bullets into its belly. The creature shudders and dies. Steele investigates further, and discovers a nest up on a cliff face, but he has no means to climb, and furthermore it's getting dark, so he heads back to town, dragging the wall-crawler carcass. He's given a few bullets in gratitude, though the nest will have to be dealt with later. Nonetheless, he tells quite a story back in town about how the wall-crawler was defeated, and succeeds in raising spirits in the settlement.

The next day, a new stranger arrives in town -- a purple-robed bald man who goes by the name of Brother Joy. He introduces himself as a Doomsayer -- a member of the Cult of Doom founded by a mutant by the name of Silas Rasmussen, though Brother Joy is a member of the "Schismatics" that broke off from the main group, turning away from Silas' "anti-norm" leanings. Namely, while mainline members of the Cult of Doom seek to kill non-mutant humans to serve "evolution", the Schismatics still believe that normal humans are "Doomed" and that mutants are "Chosen", but they seek to spread the word of their beliefs and foster favorable relations between mutants and "norms", rather than to exacerbate tensions.

Brother Joy and the Mountie get acquainted, and they observe some locals heading out to deal with the wall-crawler nest. Brother Joy and Samuel Steele go along with the three shotgun-toting locals, and it's just as well -- It soon turns out that there was a second wall-crawler in the canyon, and it attacks Steele's horse, Cretien. The horse mysteriously disappears, Steele narrowly avoids what would have been a fatal blow to the head by a twist of fate, one of the locals falls into a dead faint, and even the Doomsayer is taken aback by the terror of this beast and its surprise ambush. However, one of the locals retains enough presence of mind to unload his shotgun into the monster (to little appreciable effect, thanks to the beast's natural armor) while Steele recovers and gets his gun out. When Steele finally gets to fire, he repeats his "shoot down the gullet" trick with dramatic effect, slaying the monster before anyone else has even a chance to recover from surprise and shock, and to contribute to the fight.

The group then locates the nest, but it's revealed that nobody in the group really knows how to climb. One of the locals has a grappling hook and rope, and tosses it up to the ledge that the nest is on. Steele tries to climb, but he suffers a major botch, and not only does he fall, but the grappling hook, it turns out, was anchored in the nest, which comes falling down on him. Brother Joy tries to blast the falling nest in mid-plummet with a bolt of green energy, but it fizzles off of the nest (made out of shed chitin plates) to no effect. Steele manages to roll away in time, and the small wall-crawlers, amazingly enough, survive the fall. Fortunately, they're too small to pose any real threat. The locals bag up the little wall-crawlers, and the other wall-crawler carcass is dragged back.

This time, the two heroes are paid each a clip of bullets. (The extra clip, incidentally, is worth more than the bullets are.) Brother Joy gives a theatrical presentation of the story of how the wall-crawler was defeated, much to the enjoyment of his audience. Brother Joy and Samuel Steele learn that there's another menace plaguing the town, though -- and it has to do with why Brother Joy came here in the first place: Someone has been hanging people, and rumor has it that it's a Hangin' Judge.

Samuel Steele, with his historical knowledge, is able to fill in a few blanks about the Hangin' Judges -- namely that, back during the time of the Weird West, there were some corrupt circuit judges who held a reign of terror along the Chisholm Trail by bringing up charges against anyone who stood in their way -- and, of course, the charges would always be hanging offenses. At last, the people grew sick of their abuses, and the judges themselves were strung up. However, when the Reckoning came, the judges came back as undead horrors, haunting the Chisholm Trail and finding excuses to string up anyone unlucky enough to encounter them. The victims would be found the next morning with their "offenses" written on their foreheads in blood. One day, wearing blue might be a crime. The next, it might be spitting. Or walking on the wrong side of the road. The judges were never particular.

Hot Stuff As the two heroes learn, the new trouble started back when a mutant who called himself "Hot Stuff" showed up in town and started causing some trouble with the womenfolk. Three men in the town took it upon themselves to give the mutant a little "mob justice", and he was found strung up outside of town with a sign around his neck proclaiming him a "lech". The mayor and sheriff couldn't find any solid evidence to pin the blame on the threesome, though everyone pretty much knew they did it. Still, there wasn't enough to act upon without causing a great deal of trouble in the small community, over the matter of the murder of a disagreeable stranger.

Then, about a month later -- during a full moon, the story goes -- one of the men got strung up on a tree. Then, next month, another. And a month later, the third met a similar end. Each of them was found the next morning with a sign around his neck, reading "Murderer". However, the killings didn't stop. Roughly every month or so, tending to be around a full moon, someone new would be found strung up ... young or old, man or woman, townsfolk or a stranger who happened to be wandering down the road at night ... anyone was fair game if he was found out at night by the "Hangin' Judge". And it needn't be just murder. Littering, spitting on the ground, jaywalking ... all were considered hanging offenses by this self-proclaimed "judge".

Our heroes go about the settlement, asking people what they know of the related incidents. It turns out that a mutant by the name of Tarmac (one that Brother Joy had been looking for, incidentally) had been in the area after the death of the first mutant, and was suspected of being behind the killings. Then he, too, ended up becoming a victim, as the revived legend of the Hangin' Judge seemed to take a life of its own.

At last, Brother Joy and Samuel Steele encounter the apparition themselves. Steele manages to actually give the abomination pause with an eloquent and powerful tirade, but when the Hangin' Judge evidences a desire to kill the heroes (in the form of two wicked-looking guns it carries), Brother Joy unleashes a mighty atomic blast that atomizes the "Judge".

Brother Joy and Samuel Steel Face Off Against the Hangin' Judge The story isn't over, however, as the Judge appears again the next night. Our heroes proceed to obliterate it another time. They ponder whether a tree beside the road might have some sort of tie to this legend, as this venerable oak is where they have first seen the apparition materialize. Brother Joy climbs up into the tree and discovers the frayed remains of an old knotted section of rope. Our heroes ponder various courses of action, and employ the townsfolk to dig around in the area in hopes of finding the buried body of the judge that was originally hung -- perhaps even on this very tree -- centuries ago.

At last, they come to the conclusion that there might be another place to look -- right under the pavement next to the tree. With the help of the townsfolk, they break up the pavement right next to the tree ... and, sure enough, they find the coffin of the Judge. They exhume the body, and then Steele holds a "trial" for the deceased Judge, finding him guilty of murder, and then they hang the body with a rope that has part of the old knotted section (which they found in the tree) tied in with it. The body shows an uncanny ability to remain intact despite being at least a couple of centuries old ... until it is hung on the tree, whereupon it rapidly decomposes into a pile of dust, leaving only the two revolvers.

They put the dust back into the coffin -- or, that is, as much of the dust as they can -- and rebury it. They award the two pistols to one of the townsfolk that helped them hunt the wall-crawler (the one who didn't freeze in his tracks at the mere sight of it attacking), who Steele has been training in the ways of law and order in hopes of making him a replacement sheriff (as the previous one was another victim of the Hangin' Judge).

Once this is all done, the Hangin' Judge ceases to make further appearances, and the townsfolk are far more receptive to listening to the strange message of Brother Joy, even though they aren't too keen on being called "Doomed", and nobody leaps forward to "embrace the Glow". They remain there for some time, as Steele trains the town's new sheriff, and Brother Joy gets some partial armor made from the chitin shell of one of the slain wall-crawlers ... and is presented with one of the wall-crawlers from the captured nest, to raise as an unusual mount. Brother Joy and Samuel Steele do their part in celebrating the defeat of the Hangin' Judge and the wall-crawlers in speech and song, and, as a result, the vicinity of Clearwater seems to be a little less fearsome than the average locale in the Wasted West.

Toxic Zombie ... Elsewhere, in a separate adventure, a lone traveler by the name of "Sweet Sue" makes her way across the Wasted West, accompanied only by her horse. She encounters an old toxic waste dumping site that she has to traverse, taking care to keep as much distance between herself and several pools of toxic goo as she does so. However, she soon discovers that there is "life" of a sort in the pools, and she gets the jump on some Toxic Zombies that start swarming out of the pools. She manages to get across the field, walking her horse along as she carefully keeps distance from the Zombies and takes pot shots at the closest ones with her pistol. She learns that Toxic Zombies, being mostly skeletal, are somewhat tough to take out with bullets, and she hasn't very many of them, so she spends much of the encounter carefully aiming at the head of each zombie in turn, then squeezing off a shot at the skull in the hopes of making a quick kill. She takes some damage from toxic goo flung by the zombies, but even though she makes it across the field, she decides to remain to do as much damage to the monsters as she can, in hopes that the next travelers to come this way won't be plagued by them. At the very last, she uses her very last bullet to put down the last toxic zombie ... and then heads out of there as fast as her horse will take her. The zombies are taken out, but there are no witnesses, and there is no loot to be gained for the trouble. Still, there are a few less undead horrors in the Wasted West to deal with...

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