Deadlands: Anastasis & Wormwood

Blood Ties

Session 14

During the trek to Lynchburg to find Min’s mother, the group spotted a cat trapped at the top of the tree, huddling miserably under the branches in the rain. Dr. Jourdain climbed the tree and retrieved the cat, which jumped into her arms like a trained pet.

Min, Dr. Jourdain, Laslow and Bison arrived in Lynchburg. They checked into a saloon and boarding house named and run by Mariposa Lil. Attractive saloon gals waited on the tables, hurrying on a little faster when Lil barked out orders. After a meal of tortilla soup and enchiladas, the Bison went outside to the stables to perform his rituals. Laslow retired for the evening; on the other side of the room divider Dr. Jourdain began crafting healing potions, the cat purring softly in the corner. Min remained in the saloon for an after-dinner drink.

Laslow was awakened from a disturbing dream about his late wife to find one of the Chinese saloon gals had come into the room. Suddenly her visage turned monstrous with a mouth full of fangs. The cat transformed into another monstrous woman and attacked the doctor.

Min heard the sounds of gunfire and rushed upstairs to the battle. She recognized the creatures as gaki, abominations with an insatiable desire to devour the living. Worse, bullets seemed to have little effect on them. After a long and difficult battle they put the creatures down.

They found the Bison and learned that he too had been attacked in the stables, but his club had proved more effective against the creature than bullets. The next morning the quartet left town for the Lynchburg Estate.

A light rain was falling as they reached the estate in midafternoon. Min told them her name and that she had been told her mother was here. The guards said to wait.

Min_Mother_Estate.png

  • artwork from _ Deadlands Law Dogs_ supplement (106).

They could not help but notice how disturbed the staff seemed. Some appeared absolutely petrified; others were as numb as zombies. An elderly caretaker shuffled over. “Get out before nightfall,” he whispered to Dr. Jourdain, “or you will never leave!”

A Chinese woman dressed in a sumptuous yellow gown approached them, her long black hair shining like fine silk. “Min, my daughter,” she said, tears quavering in her eyes. “I had given up all hope of seeing you again.”

For a moment Min could not speak. Here was her mother, the radiant beauty she had remembered from her childhood. But what of the corpse she had seen in the morgue almost two years ago? “How can this be? I saw you dead,” she said.

“I am sure you have many questions,” Meiying replied. “The servants will prepare rooms for you. During dinner I will tell you the story.”

As soon as they were alone Dr. Jourdain said, “We need to get out of here. That servant said our lives were in danger.”

“I didn’t come all this way just to leave before I find out what happened to my mother,” Min said.

They went down to dinner. At first it seemed Meiying was delaying by stretching out the small talk. Finally Min forced the point. “Mother, I need answers. Now.”

Meiying explained that her parlor house had fallen deeply into debt. Worse, the “Big Brothers” in Shan Fan regarded her as a threat to their territory. So she made a deal with Warlord Kang, who wanted to conquer Shan Fan. In exchange for her service he would act as her patron and even use his sorcerous powers to revive her if she was killed. Rat Skinner Hou eventually did assassinate her. Warlord Kang resurrected her and put her in charge of overseeing Lynchburg Estate.

“How did he do that? And what exactly is it that you do here?” Min asked.

“I cannot answer the first question,” Meiying said. “As for the second, I entertain guests and manage the staff.”

Min thought she was evading the question. All day she had been scrutinizing her mother for signs she was an imposter but could find none. So she tried looking around her instead. The servants were terrified of Meiying; they practically shook in her presence. The shadows in the room were jagged and nightmarish, the portraits on the wall had faces twisted in pain and the flowers in the vase had already died. To her horror, she realized the nexus for the powerful fear and evil in this place was her mother.

Min stood up and shot her mother with the special bullets Mr. Wen had given her. Meiying screamed and her head detached from her body and flew upward. Her head hovered in midair with the entrails still attached. She was a penanggalan, a particularly loathsome type of vampire.

“How could you betray me Min?” I sacrificed everything for you. Don’t do this to me. Your companions are your real enemy. They have tricked you!”

Min felt a strange feeling come over her. She was crazy to be attacking her mother like this. A daughter should defend her mother. She aimed her revolver at her friends, her finger quaking against the trigger. What was happening? This is wrong, she thought, shaking off the charm spell the penaggalan had cast on her.

A brutal battle broke out as the mind-controlled Lynchburg Estate servants tried to defend their mistress. In the end the penaggalan was destroyed but the Bison also went down, tangled up in the penaggalan’s intestine-tentacles. Dr. Jourdain’s weird science medical treatment revived him enough to get him back on his feet. After freeing the children the penaggalan had been using as food, the group left the estate. They saw a woman transform into a fox and vanish into the woods under the cover of night.
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The air felt hot and oppressive as Min walked down the hall of carnival mirrors, the surfaces reflecting back distorted versions of herself.

Suddenly the reflections in the mirrors began to shift independent of her movements. Her torso twisted and bulged and then her head and entrails broke free and hovered in the air as her body collapsed on the ground.

“Stupid girl,” the reflections said, and the voice that echoed through the hall was not her own but her mother’s. “You have only delayed your fate.”

Quick as a flash Min drew Wen’s Revenge and opened fire on the mirrors. But the bullets passed through harmlessly.

“Killing comes so easily to you,” the penaggalan continued. “Why do you suppose that is?”

“No,” Min gasped. She backed down the hall and then began to run. But there was no end to this hall of mirrors. Her reflections followed her everywhere.

“You cannot run away from yourself, my daughter,” Meiying said. Her high-pitched laughter filled the hall and the mirrors shattered. The shards moved in slow motion but there was no escaping them. One by one they sliced across Min’s soul. Her steps grew slower and she finally collapsed, succumbing to death by a thousand cuts.

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