A while ago, Zodi said to me “You need a chapter with a train in Black Mask & Pale Rider.” She also said “You need to bring back Ya’Row.” So me, never being one to question such words of wisdom as these, decided she was right. So here, set between the chapters of Wild Wild West and Shot Down in a Blaze O’ Glory, we present a story just in time for Halloween. Filled with adventure, a train, a Reverend and vampires.
Somewhere near Reading, Pennsylvania, Early October 1863
The moon was high as five figures dragged a woman, whimpering and stuggling weakly against their grip. They worked quickly, binding the woman to a fallen support column, and then turning their attention to a dark pit. As the five worked, the young woman could only look on in horror as they dragged up a disfigured obelisk from the pit, the figure of a twisted humanoid shape chained to the structure. She could only watch as the five began some sort of ritual, as they worked feverishly to awaken the figure. Fear crept further and further through her veins as the twisted figure began to move, the woman could see the creature’s fangs, and feel it’s hollow eyes land upon her.
“R-release me!” it seemed to hiss as it’s attention was completely focused on the woman before it. “Must… feed!” The five pale figures worked quickly as they unshackled the creature from it’s prison, with each second they grew closer the creature growled out a desire for sustenance.
As the final chain fell, the creature lumbered forward; the woman tried to scream, call out for help, anything that would summon a quick rescue, but none would come. The creature suck it’s fangs into her neck and began to drink deeply from her. As the life ebbed from the young woman, the creature began to take on a new appearance, as though life had begun to fill it up. The pale skin, long black hair, and full figure of the female took on a greater appearance.
As the elven vampire drank her last, she tossed the useless husk of the now dead woman to the side and looked to the five that held Ya’Row in a solemn regard. “You,” she said as she pointed to one of the thralls bound to her. “Find me appropriate garments.” Her gaze snapped to another of her thralls. “And you. Tell me where we can find them. Where are those elves?”
“Mistress,” the thrall replied in a hushed voice, filled with reverence. “We have heard word that they are west of here. Travelling through Indiana as we speak.” He paused a moment before continuing. “We believe they are travelling north, chased by the United States Army.”
“The Army will catch them,” another thrall replied. “More than likely the elves will hang.”
The elven vampire snarled as she looked to her thralls. “That must not happen,” she said with a sneer. “They will be mine. I will destroy them.”
“Yes Mistress,” the thralls replied in unison. “We will begin our travel at once.”
Ya’Row snorted a laugh and smiled a most wicked smile. “Excellent. Let the hunt begin.”
Gary, Indiana, October 16, 1863
The tall man flipped his pocket watch closed and placed it in the pocket of the long, black coat. He had a rugged appearance about him; a face that had seen many days on the range, eyes that had seen much death. His grey hair flowed from under the black stetson, kept crisp and clean. An old gunhand by all appearances, right down to the breastplate he wore. Many were shocked, though, as they saw the cross emblazoned on the plate, and the reverend’s collar at his throat. Gripped in his right hand was the well worn book that seemed to always remain by his side. The very same book that he opened and continued to read from as he waited on the boarding platform of the train station.
People mingled all around him, not paying him much attention, only when he would offer a kind smile in greeting. He didn’t talk much, or to many that walked past him; he was just a traveller like many to this station. This did not mean his eyes did not take in those around him.
A tall, thin man stumbled and fell to the platform as three rugged looking gunslingers pushed him around. They laughed as the man attempted to collect his bags and rise to his feet only to fall once again as one of the cowboys tripped him up. “What’s the meaning of this?” the man cried out as the rough hands on one cowboy pushed him down again.
“Jist wantin’ ta find someone who can be generous ‘nough ta git us fair fer the train,” one of them announced with a wicked grin. “Figger you’d be nice ‘nough ta do jist that.”
“I… I only have enough for myself,” the man pleaded as he gathered his bags up yet again. “I do have some things to sell. If you’ll leave me alone.”
The three cowboys grinned at the man as they circled him like vultures. The man looked up with pleading eyes to the three gunslingers, pushing himself back along the platform as other commuters around him paid no heed. He stopped moving when his hand came to rest on a soft, leather boot. The three cowboys stopped as well, their attention fixed upon the man in the long, black coat with the black stetson.
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.,” the man simply said aloud in a gravely voice as he looked from gunslinger to gunslinger. “And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” The tall man stopped as he held out a helping hand to the man, still speaking as he assisted the man to his feet. “You three should heed the words and act more like the good Samaritan.”
“Thank you, Reverend,” the young man said as he checked his bags quickly. “What can I do to pay you, Sir.”
“No need for sir, young man,” the older of the two said with a kind smile. “Name’s Reverend Carter Stewart. An’ the only thing I’d ask o’ you is ta remember this, and do something in kindness for someone else down the road.” Without another word, Stewart turned to the conductor of the train and handed his ticket over.
“I jist don’t like it when a buncha brigands start roughin’ up some city slicker who come out here fer a new life,” Shani huffed openly as she reached into her coin purse. “How much were thet ‘gain?”
“That’ll be fifty dollars, Miss,” the man behind the ticket counter repeated.
“Fifty dollars!” Shani replied with a great deal of shock. “Thet there’s highway robbery. An’ I know all ’bout high way robbery.”
“Two tickets to Thief River Falls,” the man behind the ticket counter explained. “And boarding of your horses on the livestock trailer.”
“Well then. Fifty it is,” Shani said as she easily dropped the money down and took the two tickets. “Gonna be nice ta ride on a train,” she said as she handed Pania her ticket. The pair walked down the length of the platform to the conductor. “Be nice fer them horses too, not havin’ ta be on the go so much.”
“Aye, give ’em a wee bi’ o’ a rest,” Pania nodded in agreement. “’Sides, I’ve never ridden on one o’ these iron ‘orses b’fore. Be a nice experience ta say the least.”
“You gonna write a sonnet ‘r opus ’bout it?” Shani asked with a teasing grin.
“Ye never know,” Pania replied. “Tha’ migh’ jus’ be a good idea.” the pair continued talking about the concept of trains and how they might make life much easier on their homeworld, a pair of eyes watched them from the window of a darkened passenger car.