Previously, on “The Devil, John Moulton,” they found a town with signs the warlock had been through, and got a sense of the lay of the land. You can read all about it here.
Bower and Manly headed for “Shark” Nelson’s saloon, Manly limping because of the snake bite and Bower’s hand itching and burning from the spilled venom that marked him somehow.
They strolled past the deputy on guard at the back, and headed into a plush poker room with a felt-topped table and a bar and drapes on the walls, all the comforts you would want in a friendly game.
Nelson welcomed them, and had the Doc in to play. Miss West, the veterinarian, incongruously came in to help herself to some whiskey, and no one seemed to mind. The Texan also joined them, hurled down the stairs and followed by some deputies. They were supposed to shoot him and bury him shallow, but they had a problem; Nelson whispered with them about it as the Texan asked them for a gun, but no one seemed willing to help him out.
To keep it interesting, they played for stakes in the mine, and all that entailed. The Texan was not dealt in, because Nelson casually explained he was dead no matter what. Bower won the first round handily, showing off his preternatural cool as he was gaining a number of shares in the mine.
Screams in the Dark
They heard a scream outside. A deputy came flying in, bemurked in the filth from the water tower creature; he was hurt, but perhaps even more panicked than injured.
As the other deputies went out to investigate, Nelson shot the Texan in the head and deputized everyone else to deal with this. He opened the gun cabinet, and gave everyone guns if they wanted them (and a derringer to Manly.) He sent Manly out to investigate. Bold, Manley stepped out to notice there was a peculiar effect of darkness close to the building, and silhouettes of the skyline. He followed the dropped shotgun and discarded boot of a missing deputy around to the front, where the slime monster from the water tower attacked.
The massive blow sent him flying, but he managed to scramble to his feet and escape back into the poker cellar. The world was tightening around this spot, no one could escape; it became clear that Miss West was trapping everyone here, and she was a witch. She didn’t care if Nelson lived or died; he was a necessary evil, someone had to run the show.
Bower invoked his demonic miracle and summoned demons to drag her off to Hell. Since she was tightly constraining what could come or go, there was the thinnest chance their clashing miracles would deflect from one another; indeed, there was a lock-up in the supernatural action as Moulton himself strolled in unimpeded. He offered to play Bower poker to see whose miracle would work.
Bower wasn’t having any of that. He insisted any miracle worth his soul should work as advertised. Moulton consulted his impossibly large ledger, its pages scabbed with close-packed script in blood, and ruled in Bower’s favor. The witch veterinarian shrieked as she was dragged to Hell, and Moulton tipped his hat and left.
More Death in the Poker Room
Bower wasn’t the only one keeping his cool. While Nelson wibbled and wet himself after viewing that exchange, Doc wryly observed they actually annoyed Moulton, something he hadn’t seen in a hundred years. Manly and Bower wasted no time throwing down on him, but he snapped his fingers and vanished, their bullets slashing through space he previously occupied.
About then the door burst open and the slime monster came for them. Those in the poker room took off, Nelson in the lead, except for Manly and Bower. Manly flung bottles of whiskey at it followed by a hurricane lamp, and it lit up. The monster was consumed by agony, and thrashed against the walls, now sporting glass shard claws and a patina of alcohol-fueled flame. They left, slamming the door and hoping it would be stuck in there long enough to die.
Showdown on Main Street
As they got to the main street, there was a mob of a couple dozen townsfolk wondering what was going on. Doc appeared at the back of the mob and pointed out the newcomers to town were burning it down; they protested that there was a dead witch, and possibly a dead monster, and Doc pointed out they were admitting to murder and arson. The crowd got enthusiastic, but Manly cooled their ardor by blowing Doc’s cover with a pistol full of bullets; Doc snapped his fingers, but maybe caught some lead first.
Driving home the point that they were surrounded by the supernatural, Bower and Manly appealed to the superstitious fear of the crowd, reminding them of the preacher and his fate and of the evidence of their eyes with a vanishing man, and half of them dissipated. The other half didn’t like the look of the shotguns the witches held, and they sloped off too.
The Prison Slum
About then a young man ran into town looking for Doc, or the vet, because one of the kids had something SERIOUSLY wrong with him. Manly claimed medical knowledge, and they followed the teenager to the nearby slum tents where the mine kept their child slave labor.
One of the children was badly desiccated, like a mummy, drained of essence. As Manly listened to the corpse’s chest for a heartbeat, it snapped into action, clutching his head and chewing for brains. Bower whapped it with the Bible and it subsided, some of its bones falling to powder.
They heard a scream from an adjacent tent and raced over to find Doc slurping the life out of another child to heal up and possibly recharge his teleporting miracle. As Manly shot him some more, Bower slapped him with the Bible, so he regurgitated life force into the child as he was destroyed himself. He lay on the ground, curling like a bug as life left him, and he whispered that they could no longer hunt Moulton; now he would hunt THEM.
Escaping the Devil, John Moulton
No sooner had Doc expired but hot winds picked up, and they knew the Devil, John Moulton, was waiting for them outside. They ran for it, gasping for air in the increasing pressure as they pushed through the unfamiliar woods at night, breaching the edge of the woods behind the town and sensing the stark silhouette of Moulton waiting on Main Street. The fire had been sucked out of the tavern, and its skeleton stood glowing and pulsing like a rune made of embers.
Refusing to face their fate on such uneven terms, they sprinted around behind the town, headed for the church. On the way, Manly spotted a dog, and needed to drain its life to heal. The mangy mutt was savage and uncooperative, but Bower helped pin it down; he was shocked when Manly drained it, punching him so he fell in the dirt of the ally, insisting he never be made a part of that sort of sacrifice without his consent again. Manly just laughed; what kind of “next time” was there likely to be at this point? They continued towards the church.
They soon saw it, as all the fire from the tavern was flaring through it; also, snakes poured through the underbrush towards them.
Swinging on low-hanging branches or leaping from boulder to boulder, the pair managed to evade the snakes and burst clear of the treeline in the clearing, staring down the Devil as he stood with his pistol out and the flaming church reflected in his eyes (even though it was behind him.)
The Inevitable Showdown
Bower and Manly cursed the slim warlock, then guns came out and fire blasted. His hand cannon had no exhaust that was visible here, its smoke clouding his true form that was invisible to the eye. The witches scattered to the treeline in vain hope of cover as he blew a couple trees in half. At the ragged end of their lives, they only had one more chance.
Grim, Moulton parted reality like a curtain and summoned in a hell hound to finish off these pesky witches.
Hating himself for doing it, Manly maneuvered around behind Bower, who was furiously consulting the Bible in hopes of finding a clue. Bower was indeed one of the only things that could stop Moulton’s bullet, and as he flew back torn almost in half and plunging towards Hell, Manly charged the warlock.
Manly’s gun roared at point blank range, tearing through Moulton’s chest; as the warlock fell, the craters in his torso crisped and flared with fire, and he hit the ground as a peal of thunder crackled overhead. Manly was hit from behind by the hell hound, and fell on Moulton–no, THROUGH him, and they took the hound with them as they all toppled towards the hissing lake of fire that waited for them below.
(Seriously, for a game like this, what you see here is about the closest thing you get to a happy ending.)