December 29th, 1879
The group spent a week in Shan Fan, recuperating from their wounds and getting to know the city. The Explorer’s Society happily put them up in the Sunset Hotel. Doc McGee also made a device to interpret the signals of the brain they had recovered. It redrew his plans for the desalination device, and then promptly committed suicide.
Finally, having recovered, done a bit of shopping and training, they decided to head south to the Big M ranch to inform Faulkner’s partner about Faulkner’s device. During his time out playing cards, Garret had made a new friend by the name of Fenthick O’Hare, who wanted to hire the group to deliver a cargo for him, though he was somewhat vague on the contents.
Agreeing to the terms, the party took the crates to a desolate island west of Shannonsburg, where they were expected to meet with the group after sundown. Garret went on ahead, covered by Jeremiah while the rest of the group kept the boat off shore. A group of men in dark clothes with Confederate military tattoos met Garret after he gave the signal, and then took possession of the crates (which were revealed to be loaded with guns and ammo).
The men also passed on an unusual message to Garret: Telling him that the word had come down and most of the group was being recalled to meet at the Warehouse in Lost Angels. He was also expected to pass the message along to Cantrell if he met him.
Along the way, they ran into a pirate ship pursuing a confederate freighter, which they ignored, and an Imperial Mexican Navy Ironclad, which was very much an oddity this far north. It threatened to board them and confiscate their ghost rock, but they managed to talk the officer down.
January 2nd, 1880
The Big M ranch was a verdant oasis of life in the midst of the Maze. While it was winter, it was clear that the plateau was far more fertile than most of the salt poisoned land around. Trees, miles and miles of crops, and enormous herds of cows populated it. The regulators guarding the docks let them up, and the group split up.
Jeremiah and Garret went to the mess hall for some fresh food, while Doc McGee tracked down Harmon Kelly. The good doctor was slightly nuts and acted like a pirate in his lair in an old hotel, but he did have the desalination device (The Klauberizer) up and running. McGee was particularly impressed by how the only ghost rock used in it was for the generator that powered it. Kelly was distraught to learn of his partner’s death, but was pleased to have the schematics, which he could use to bring the machine up to its full potential.
Meanwhile, Garret and Jeremiah were enjoying some of the best steaks when they heard about a job offer. Apparantly, something or someone had been killing and mutilating young cows out in the field. The local regulators were hiring extra help to stake out the herds. Free meals were included.
The group decided to assist, and investigated one of the dead bodies (confirming that body parts were being removed), then hid in a forest after figuring out the most likely spot for the next attack based on the pattern of movement.
They spent half the night camping, and their persistence was rewarded. A massive chimera like creature landed, with body parts from all sorts of different creatures sewn onto it, and it began tearing at the cows. The group promptly opened fire and dispatched it from a distance handily, despite its attempts to flee. When they went to investigate the body, however, they came under fire from an unknown sniper.
Jeremiah was badly wounded when he took a bullet in the gut, but fortunately, Garret was able to dispatch the man by boldly riding forward. There was a second woman with the sniper, who tried to flee while hurtling black magic at Garret; but bullets served to send her to the beyond as well.
When the rest of the local guards rode up, in response to the gunfire, they recognized the woman as a tenant in one of the cottages up north, Agatha Leeds. They went to investigate, and found a regular witches den in her house, and the lair of the creature underneath. Documents they found in the house confirmed that the woman was a user of black magic who had been hired by the Church of Lost Angels to sow terror on the island, soften them up for an invasion in a few days.
The owner of the Big M, Dwight Shelton, was extremely concerned when he heard about this. After paying the posse a bonus, he asked if they would be willing to help defend the Ranch; to which they agreed.