Everyone knew the Whateleys were bad news, but no one knew just how bad.  They kept things in their basement--spawn of humans and devils that have festered for centuries in their own hate.  Wilhelmina cut these demon-spawn loose, and all o’ Gomorra felt their bite.  Now, with the mother lode found and pure chaos roamin’ loose on the streets, this clan of inbred sorcerers is ready to take the final step: raisin’ their master from the pits o’ Hell.

Rob Vaux

Hunter watched as Jackson’s guns blazed once again. He shook his head in amazement at the sheer speed of the man. No matter how many times he saw it, he still couldn’t believe anyone could shoot like that.

The current target of the outlaw’s ire danced like a puppet as the bullets slammed through him. Wrath, he had called himself. One of Elijah’s flock. He skidded to the ground, sending countless weapons spilling into the dirt around him. The fanatic joined a pile of bodies on the ground around him: men and women he had gunned down as they attempted to reach Lord Grimely’s. No one, it seemed could get past the well-armed Sin.

"No one except Black Jack," he spoke quietly. If Stoker wanted to reach Knicknevin, he had certainly picked the right people for the job.

A shadow wriggled, and Hunter fired almost instinctively. The shape yelped and fell back. He didn’t have time to ponder what it was. Turning his head, he tried to gauge how many of his people were left. It was impossible to tell. The light from the burning Whateley mansion threw strange shadows across the landscape, transforming faces into masks of light and darkness. Besides Black Jack and Stoker himself, Hunter couldn’t identify a single friendly face.

Ahead of them, the battle raged on. Gunslingers, pirates, and Indians surrounded the Stygian figure in front of the mansion, fighting tooth and claws to bring the creature down. Gunfire echoed through the air, joined by an occasional burst of shaman magic and something that could have been a huckster’s cards. They may as well have been toys. Knicknevin towered high above them, swiping aside those who got too close. Bullets and magic glanced harmlessly off its hide. Beside it, members of Elijah’s flock cackled and howled, striking targets of opportunity as they saw them. The struggle teetered on the verge of a massacre.

"What do we do now?" he shouted at Stoker. The Confederate turned.

"We wait for a distraction."

"And if on doesn’t come?" he returned.

"Oh ye of little faith," Stoker almost laughed. "Watch."

The great red vehicle came thundering across the plain - a monstrosity almost worthy of the manitou it rumbled towards. It rolled on strange treaded tracks, moving quickly despite its great size. Guns of every variety jutted out from its armored carapace, while a pair of huge mechanical claws flanked the driver’s seat. It thundered through the carnage, launching fire, bullets and a strange green beam of some sort against any creature which approached.

"The Collegium," Hunter whispered.

Knicknevin’s alien eyes narrowed as the vehicle rolled toward it. It opened its claws in a hideous embrace, almost daring the mad scientists to do their best. The arcs of fire spraying from the guns narrow in its direction. Knicknevin never flinched.

The bus struck the creature head on, at a clip of almost forty-five miles an hour. The mechanical claws dug into the monsters flesh as wave after wave of withering fire engulfed its features. Knicknevin staggered from the blow, struggling to stay on its feet even as the front of the contraption crumpled like paper. After a paralyzed instant of hanging in space, it lost the battle with gravity. The front of Lord Grimely’s collapsed under its weight as it fell with an earthshattering thud. The Collegium tank continued to push forward, drawn by its own momentum and by the huge digits which grasped at its hull. The whole mess vanished in a cloud of timber and dust.

"Did they get it?" Hunter heard Jackson ask.

"Not likely," Stoker replied.

With a wrench of metal, Knicknevin rose to its feet. It not longer looked gleeful. Now it looked mad. Grasping the Collegium’s machine like an oversized toy, it tore the vehicle in half. Armored rivets shredded like newspaper, a gout of fuel caught fire as it sprayed into the air, and Hunter could hear screams coming from within. Scientists bailed out of turrets and compartments like rats as Knicknevin lifted the shattered remains above its head. Something exploded within, sending shards of metal flying into the night. The few remaining combatants dove for whatever cover they could find.

"Sweet mother of mercy," Hunter breathed.

With a shout, Knicknevin launched itself into the air. Gigantic wings spread from its back as it leapt across the moon, soaring high above Hunter’s head and back towards town. Its target soon became clear. The soft *whump* of an explosion rose behind him, coming from Gomorra’s north end. The Collegium compound. Arcs of electricity rose into the air and a strange green fire engulfed the marble structure as Knicknevin crashed down through the roof.

"Come on," Stoker grabbed the sheriff’s arm. "We haven’t much time."

The band trotted onto the plain before Lord Grimely’s and spread out amid the carnage. Knots of survivors huddled amid corpses and flaming wreckage; most were trying to look brave in the face of what they had just seen. The sheriff’s rifle sought out any readily available foes, but could find none. No Flock members could be seen, and the Whateley family seemed to have dispersed; small blessings smiled upon them.

Just before Lord Grimely’s stood an ashen circle, surrounded by bodies and pieces of the Collegium’s machine. Knicknevin’s perch, where he had defended his newborn "kingdom" from all comers. The corpses around him spoke to the creature’s success. Mostly Sioux and Rangers; good men and women helpless before its power. The lucky ones were intact; most had been torn apart, arms and legs shredded like so much meat. Hunter’s eyes widened as he recognized the closest body.

"The Ghost."

Andrew Lane lay sprawled on the edge of the blasted circle. His bearded face was smeared with ash, while his hands clutched a useless pair of pistols. In another setting, he might have been sleeping; as it was, his motionless body spoke to the futile fight he had put up. Stoker knelt by the Ghost’s form, trying to see if some life yet remained...

"Psst! Law Man!" a sharp whisper came to his right. "Over here!"

A small knot of men, dressed in sashes and kerchiefs, crouched near an earthen mound. Their leader gestured at Hunter while his companions looked nervously back at the town.

"Maze Rats," Hunter spat at the site. "I thought the Collegium sank you."

"A minor concern in light our present situation," Captian Sim spoke softly. Please take cover sheriff. Our adversary will be back soon, and there’s someone here who needs to speak with you."

Hunter considered for a moment, then nodded. The Maze Rats weren’t stupid enough to pick a fight now, and even if they were, Black Jack stood right behind him. With the outlaw at his back, he followed the errant pirates.

A shallow crater lay behind the mound, forming an impromptu foxhole. Sitting cross-legged in the center of it was woman wearing the star of the Texas Rangers. Her face was as blackened as the Ghost’s, but fire still gleamed in her eyes and her white hat remained firmly atop her head. She smiled ruefully as Jackson and Hunter approached.

"Glad you could join us," Katie Karl said morosely.

It took a moment for Hunter’s eyes to adjust to the dark. As they did, he saw a second figure lying in the foxhole, its head resting on Katie’s lap. The old Indian’s wrinkled features were streaked with blood, and Hunter could see him struggling to sit up

"We found him at the Whateley estate, beside that old woman," Sim explained. "We were going to leave him, but he asked to be brought here - to wait for you and the outlaw."

"What a kind man you are to be so thoughtful," Hunter’s voice was incredulous.

"My orders are to stop that creature, no matter what the cost. Joseph was the first to warn us of it, and he might have enough power to do what we - and those thrice-cursed scientists - could not."

"What happened to the woman?" Jackson asked.

"Based on what we saw, I am no longer worry about her," Sim stared in fascination at the Indian. "This is not a man you should anger."

Joseph Eyes-Like-Rain sat up suddenly. The intensity on his face took Hunter aback.

"You have come," he looked past Hunter to the black-clad outlaw behind him. "And have buried the hatchet with your enemy. Would that that had come sooner."

"I’m sorry Joseph," Hunter returned. "I’m sorry about everything. But we’ve only got a short amount of time before that thing comes back and..."

"I know of our foe," Joseph returned. "And I know that you cannot stop it, Nathan Hunter. Nor you, Jackson Jackson. It takes more than mortal weapons to slay such a beast."

"Then why..."

"So that you may learn from what you have seen. So that the sacrifices we have made here will not be in vain. All of you..." He held his hands out to the pirates and to the Ranger supporting him. "...must tell others what happened here. Tell them that our hatred caused it, that our blindness fed it. Tell them we could not stand together until the threat had engulfed us. They must know this--so that Gomorra’s fate doesn’t befall the entire world..."

Concern crossed Hunter’s faced as he gazed at the old man.

"So it’s over? There’s nothin’ we can do?"

Joseph shook his head. "Nothing."

"What about you? Can’t you do somethin’?"

Again, Joseph shook his head. "The spirits had given me what I needed to face our enemy, but the Whateley woman found me first. She paid the price, at the cost of draining me. My life grows faint..."

His body shuddered with coughs and he hunched over as blood leaked from his open mouth.

A shadow fell across the assemblage, dressed in Confederate gray. Austin Stoker looked down at the assemblage as chuckled softly to himself.

"Won’t be long now," he drawled.

"You!" Joseph whispered at him. "You are an evil spirit, as bad as the one we fight. You killed my son. You took the lives of those who could help us. Hell burns within your eyes and taints your soul."

Stoker smiled, the sardonic grin of a corpse. "That may be, but I’m the best hope you people have." His voice rose. "Joseph ain’t the only one with power here, and thanks to the two o’ you -" here he gestured at Black Jack and the sheriff. "- I didn’t have to spend it fightin’ Knicknevin’s toadies. I didn’t come here alone, old man. I brought the best gunfighters in Gomorra to cut me a path."

Katie looked upon at him as anger and fear flashed across her face.

"So you have enough to stop it?" she asked.

"No," he said simply. "But I know someone who does."

A roar rose from town and an ebony shape rose from the still-burning compound. Knicknevin seemed to cross the distance in one fell leap. One moment, it stood amid the ghost-rock flames of the Collegium’s folly, the next it had arced across the sky to land at its former location. It’s knees bent as it touched down, and sulphur fumes belched from its grinning mouth.

"STOKER!!!" it bellowed. "YOUR TIME IS NIGH STOKER!!!"

Austin Stoker winked at the assemblage below him, then turned to face the nightmare.

"Hello, Knicknievin," he said quietly. "Long time."


"They had their uses," he returned. "But I’m done with them now." His eyes hardened. "You have something that belongs to me, and I mean to cut it out of your unholy hide."


In response, Stoker drew a large, oddly-shaped pistol from its holster. ‘The Right Hand of God’ was etched along its barrel. Knicknevin bellowed inhuman laughter.


The gun went off, sending a streak of light into the creature’s shoulder. The bullet penetrated the inky flesh, eliciting a cry of surprise and pain from the monster it struck.

"Hurts, don’t it?" Stoker smiled.

"YOU...STRUCK ME!!!" Knicknevin howled.

"The Collegium whipped this up. It’s supposed to stop creatures like you an’ me. Does a pretty good job from what I’ve seen." He looked up as Knicknevin’s face twisted with hate and rage. "New rules out here in the world, hellspawn. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, you can still bleed."


"No," Stoker countered. "But I didn’t bring it to use on you."

He pivoted the weapon and fired down at the creature’s feet, where it struck the body lying prone on the ground.

The body of Andrew Lane.

"The Harrowed, Knicknevin," Stoker smiled. "The first way you manitous had of getting here. Revive a corpse, take control of its soul, and use it to wreak havoc however you can. It’s a game you didn’t want to play, Knicknevin. You remember why?"

The Ghost’s eyes fluttered open. Something burned in their pits, something dark and infernal, and very, very mad.

"Take the Ghost here," he continued. "Strong-willed man, lots of good in his heart. He fought the manitou when it claimed his body. Didn’t let it take control. In time, he completely mastered it, using its powers without surrendering any control to it. It’s a risk you run every time you take over one of us. In this case, the manitou lost big time."

The Ghost leapt to his feet, an infernal grin creeping across his face. His fingers twisted into angry claws and his eyes began to glow with hellish strength.

"That didn’t mean it was dead, though. No, it just waited deep inside. Waited and slept until something came along to wake it up. Something like a bullet from a mystical gun."

The thing behind Andrew Lane’s face looked up at its ebon companion.

"Didn’t tell your buddies you were plannin’ to come here, did you?" Stoker teeth flashed. "Didn’t tell them about your secret gate. Big mistake. They’re awful upset at you...and now they got a weapon to do somethin’ about it."

With a howl, the Ghost leapt up at Knicknevin, rage and glee playing across his features. His clawed hand imbedded in Knicknevin’s side, drawing maggot-ridden blood from the wound. Knicknevin screamed and brought its own claws down upon the possessed agent, but the blow passed right through him like...like a ghost. Lane plunged his hands into the creature’s stomach, rending and tearing like a wildcat

"STOKER!!!" Knicknevin rumbled. "KILL YOU STOKER!!!"

"I’m not the one you should worry about," Stoker returned. There was a slow rasp as he drew his saber from its scabbard. "But I don’t see why Mr. Lane should have all the fun."

He struck the haft of Knicknevin’s knee. The blade ate into the flesh and bone, and Knicknevin screamed again. It staggered for a moment, then toppled over as the knee gave out. Lane fell with it, sending gobbets of flesh flying in all directions. The wounded manitou tried to strike the Ghost, again to no avail.

Behind them, Hunter and Jackson rose to watch. They were joined by Katie Karl, whose face bore testament to the horror of the scene. On the floor of the foxhole, Joseph Eyes-Like-Rain had stopped moving.

A huge clawed hand caught Stoker across the face. He grunted as the blood flew, feeling the searing pain cut to his soul. There was something else inside as well; a burning in his chest that seemed to grow as Knicknevin’s pain increased. Stoker smiled and swung again at his nemesis, this time plunging the blade into its open wound. As its rage turned to agony, Knicknevin swiped again at Stoker’s form. Its nails grasped the Confederate’s coat and dug deep into the flesh beneath. It pulled him close as the Ghost shattered its ribs with another inhuman blow.

"IF I DIE, YOU DIE WITH ME!!!" it whispered.

Stoker spat in its face. "Better be sure..."

Lane smashed through Knicknevin’s gore-soaked chest until his fingers grasped the black and beating organ beneath. With a triumphant cry - a cry that no human throat had ever uttered - he pulled the heart free of its owner...

And was engulfed in light. The manitou’s horribly injured body exploded, washing attacker and onlooker alike. Lane was hurled backwards by a blast of energy, intermingled with Knicknevin’s dying howl. Hunter gave a panicked shout and yanked Black Jack behind the rampart by his collar. Katie Karl flattened herself on top of the two of them as a blast of energy dispersed above their heads. Night became day as hurricane winds screamed across the plain. Nate clenched his eyes shut and held on. Slowly, the screams grew quieter, the light dimmed until only darkened silence remained.

"It’s over," he heard Katie whisper. "I think it’s finally over." He shook the dust off

his hat and slowly rose out of the pit.

A crater stood where Knicknevin had been, dark earth baked rock-hard by the light

and heat. The blast had removed the detritus from the area; the wreckage from Lord Grimely’s was gone and no bodies could be seen. The Ghost lay some fifty feet away; his limbs twisted slowly, but he did not rise. Here and there, a few faces poked out of the plains. Survivors of various factions with enough good sense to keep their heads down. In the center of the crater, seared white by the blast, was a gigantic, inhuman skull. Knicknevin’s teeth grinned up beneath empty sockets, eliciting a shudder from Hunter’s spine. As he watched, the skull sunk slowly into the earth, drawn by some unseen force to vanish beneath the soil.

Of Austin Stoker, there was no sign.

Hunter stood at the edge of the crater; how long, he could not say. He watched the petrified earth and waited for the thing the rise again. He watched the brightening horizon and waited for Wilhelmina Whateley’s clan to come looking for vengeance. He watched the sky above and waited for fire to drop from the heavens. Something else was coming, some new horror that would destroy them all.

A hand touched his shoulder softly. He turned to see Jackson in the pre-dawn light. Relief flooded the outlaw’s face, and Hunter thought he could see tears in the man’s eyes.

"It’s over," his voice cracked. "It’s going to be okay."

The sheriff of Gomorra listened to the words, then nodded shudderingly. Together, they turned away from the crater and walked slowly back to town.


Charlie Landers poured his sheriff a drink. The Fat Chance wasn’t open yet, but the diminutive bartender was making an exception. Nate Hunter nodded gratefully and downed the whisky in a single gulp.

"That bad, was it?" Charlie asked.

"You have no idea," Hunter returned. "I can’t close my eyes without seeing it."

"Well for what it’s worth, you folks won a lot for us. In case you haven’t noticed, we still got a town here. The Flock’s gone and the Whateley’s are runnin’ scared with their grandma gone. You may have nightmares, sheriff, but you brokered a good bargain fer ‘em."

"Wendy’s burying her father tomorrow. I’ve got three more deputies without families I’ve gotta put in the ground and two hundred others who weren’t quite fast enough. That doesn’t count the Rangers, the Sioux, the Agents..."

"It could have been worse," Charlie spoke matter-of-factly. "A lot worse."

"I know," Hunter returned. "I’m just gettin tired of payin’ the price."

The doors swung open and a third man entered the saloon: Cort Williams, the

Ghost’s second-in-command. He pulled off his gloves and gestured for the whiskey bottle.

"What’s the news?" Hunter asked as the Agent wiped his lips.

"It’s hard to say. I’m not exactly overflowing with men these days. But wherever he’s gone, he’s not going out of the way to advertise."

"You Union boys never do," Charlie commented.

"So you’ll be going after him?" Hunter offered.

"I can’t."

"But he’s got an angry manitou in him. God knows what he’ll do!"

"I know, but right now only a small handful of people know about his condition. And if we can keep it quiet, it could buy us some time."

"Yeah, time to hunt him down an’ make things right," Hunter barked.

Cort turned and looked him straight in the eye. "My orders came from President Grant himself: we are to maintain a Union presence in Gomorra. Knicknevin may be gone, but you’re still sitting on the biggest lode of ghost rock in the world. Kang’s making noises about bringing the Iron Dragon through here, and word’s come down that Reverend Grimme wants a slice of this territory." He took another belt of whiskey. "We didn’t go just go through Hell on earth to turn this town over the likes of them."

Hunter sighed. "Jesus."

"If it makes you feel any better, the Rangers are sticking around too. And for now, neither of us has anywhere near the manpower to squabble at each other."

The sheriff nodded. "Findley’s in the nuthouse, so Sweetrock will be off our backs, and the Collegium will be rebuildin’ fer months."

"Your bank robbers are gone, too. The priest is still around, but the others all lit out sometime before dawn."

Hunter barked laughter. "I figured as much."

"I could send Gus out to look for them if you -"

"No. Let them go," he thought back to Jackson’s hand on his shoulder. "Killin’ them ain’t gonna bring Corky back, and I’m tired of all the blood. We gotta start livin’ in the present. If they come back...well, if they come back, then we’ll see."

Cort nodded. "Probably for the best." He took another shot of whiskey then put his gloves back on.

"Silence is the watchword, gentlemen," his voice was low and authoritative. "Nobody finds out what happened that night, and nobody finds out about the Ghost’s...condition. Can you handle that?"

Hunter slowly stirred his drink.

"I suppose so. We don’t need people getting’ any edgier than they already are."

"How about you barkeep?" Williams turned to Charlie, who glared back at him.

"Contrary to popular opinion," the tiny man barked. "I can keep my mouth shut when I hafta."

"Good. Then I won’t trouble you any further," he turned and walked back to the door. "Take care, sheriff. You won’t see much of me anymore, but I’ll be around." He stepped out into the noonday sun.

"Was that supposed to make me feel good or bad?" Hunter asked.

"Little o’ both I think."

"Yeah," Hunter sighed and stirred his drink again. The Agency was still here. The Iron Dragon, moving in. Religious fanatics from the south, Union and Confederate forces from up north. And a mother lode of ghost rock, now freed from Knicknevin’s clutches.

"I wonder," he spoke aloud. "I wonder if it’ll ever really end."

"That isn’t the point," Charlie returned. "The point is how much we do along the way."

The bartender smiled, a gap-toothed smile few had ever seen before. "As far as I’m concerned, we’ve all done enough."

Last Story

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