By Steve Crow A tale of Deadlands Weird West

The man in hunter's whites slipped quietly out of the shadows cast by the big light above and approached the door in the base of the west lighthouse. He held his weapon of choice, a Sharps "Big 50," ready before him. Ian Spencer-Whitney had come seeking a challenge. Not that Gomorra lacked challenges, but the creature he was seeking had taken up residence here, outside of town in one of the lighthouses. The trail had brought him here, so here he was.

The trail had been a complicated one. Ian had been after this particular abomination since before the sinking of the Typhoon, the Rats' ship. However, when the Collegium had sunk Sim's vessel, the hunter had lost the trail. In fact, he had even suspected that his quarry may have been destroyed entirely. Eyewitness reports of the incident had been vague: the Rats couldn't even be found, and the Collegium...well, Australia wasn't the only place with mad scientists. Spencer-Whitney preferred to give them a wide berth.

But recently, a series of cattle mutilations had been reported out in this direction by one of the stable hands at the Alright Corral. Dr. Lawrence, an archaeologist that Ian had met back in Australia, had mentioned that one of his assistants had disappeared mysteriously from a nearby dig. Process of elimination had led the hunter here, to the Gomorra lighthouses. No one had seen the keeper, Jack Peet, recently. Given the chaos in town, that was hardly unusual. However, combined with the other clues, it led Spencer-Whitney unerringly onwards.

Rifle still in hand, he scrutinized the door of the first lighthouse carefully. It was slightly open, and no light shown out from within. Given the dim twilight and the damp mist off of the Maze, both seemed unlikely. Apparently Ian's suspicions were correct.

Without further ado, Spencer-Whitney kicked the door open and stepped in. The room within was a cylindrical chamber, with a spiral staircase in the center. A single small door led off to the block attachment that was the keeper's home. There was also a trapdoor in the floor, presumably leading down into a basement of some sort.

Where would I be if I were a vampire...? Spencer-Whitney wondered. He briefly considered the high ground of the tower's summit, but dismissed it as a hiding place. His particular prey was not a "traditional" vampire, but it still disliked the sun.

Finally, Ian decided that the living quarters would be easier and safer to check. He slipped around the circumference of the room and approached the door. There was little to see: what little light came from the light above, still turning. The door was wide open, and Spencer-Whitney could detect the smell of decay from within. >Hunter or victim? he wondered. Or maybe both. Without pause he stepped into the doorway, Sharps 50 ready to blow away anything within.

The sight that greeted him was a grim one. Old Jack's withered corpse was laid out on the bed. The sheets around him may have been white at some point, but were now stained a dark red from blood long spilled and dried.

There was a crash from behind him. Ian spun just as the rifle was yanked from his hands and tossed across the room to hit the far wall with a clatter.

Apparently the creature had leaped up through the hatch in a single bound. Spencer-Whitney had thought anything taking that route would have gone slow enough and made enough noise to give him warning. Remind me never to underestimate a hopping vampire again. he thought grimly to himself.

The abomination before him was pale as death, hairless, and with features that were barely discernible as Oriental. Its already distorted visage, bloated by death, was further decayed by its stay in the waters of the Maze when it had gone down with the Typhoon. Stinking robes hid the rest of its skinny figure.

"You're one ugly bastard, myte, you know." he taunted, stepping back into Old Jack's room. He tested his footing carefully. No doubt the gyonshee had licked up any blood that might puddle, but Ian couldn't afford a slip at this point.

The vampire merely hissed back at him and advanced. It was no doubt familiar with the lighthouse's layout, and knew there was no escape. Ian had glimpsed a window up in the wall when he had first looked in, but it was too small for him to climb through even if he had dared turn his back on the gyonshee.

As the gyonshee lunged forward, Spencer-Whitney slipped one hand behind his back, then lashed out. The blade of the foot-long knife sliced the top of the gyonshee's extended four-fingered hand. There was a hiss of steam and a howl of pain, and the creature dropped back. The look on its distorted face was an equal mixture of pain, hate, and confusion.

Ian twirled the knife in his hand, and smiled. "Hurts like a bastard, doesn't it?" He took a step forward, holding the knife up. A small totem stone, tied to the hilt by a piece of leather cord, twirled around it with his movement. "An Abo shaman crafted this for me five years ago. Carved from a rock from Uluru, representing my reptile totem. Her was paying me for a favor he owed, he was. Said it would put a wound on any creature from the Other Side. And you, myte, qualify. Shall we dance?" With that, Ian lunged forward, the knife blade cutting an eloquent pirouette in the air.

Ten minutes later, the hunter stepped out and into the night air. Compared to the stench behind him, the salty tang of the Maze was a welcome relief. The vampire had put up a good fight. Perhaps the best Ian had ever had. Even after Spencer-Whitney had delivered a half-dozen blows that would have killed any normal man, the gyonshee had fought on.

But the seventh blow had done it, and now the gyonshee was dead. After dropping the abomination, Ian had had further cutting to do. Stepping to the edge of the mesa, he reached back and then threw the vampire's head far off into the waters. That was one task taken care of. He would still have to slice out the creature's heart, then burn it and the rest of the corpse separately.

As he turned to go back into the lighthouse, Ian paused for a moment, savoring the ebbing adrenaline rush. It had been touch and go, and a single misstep on his part would have resulted in his death. And now... what was left? There were few creatures left in Gomorra to challenge him. Anyone could kill a faminite or a dread wolf. And long ago, Spencer-Whitney had done so. But now he was far too experienced to gain any pleasure from doing so.

Even a maze dragon or a terrormental gave him little thrill. He had hoped the gyonshee might be more of a challenge, a thinking man-like creature instead of a hopped-up lizard with a supernatural furnace in its belly. And it had been. But now it was dead for good. Pity the Coalition hadn't let him in on the fun at the Golden Mare. Bloody amateurs. It wouldn't have taken me two trips to put the damned she-vamps down.

Still...Spencer-Whitney had no fondness for anyone who left the innocent to die. The gyonshee had been under the Maze Rats' control, and they had left their pet terror to its killing spree. They had at least one Harrowed working for them, and he had heard that Chester Nero was a formidable opponent. The surviving Rats would no doubt defend their Harrowed shipmate, and they had several hucksters working for them. Hucksters. Drawing on demons for their powers. That was near enough to a abomination in Ian's book.

Whistling cheerfully, he stepped back into the lighthouse to finish his work there. A hunter's work was never done.