Friday Fiction: Skeleton Rise

I’ve been experimenting with a new Storium game, testing out a setting that has been kind of vaguely on my mind for a while. (Storium has been great for fleshing out my setting ideas, by the way). This is the introductory post in that game, Skeleton Rise. I’m trying to do almost a Gothic sort of Western, where the town itself is like a character. It helps that the landscape of the West is so dynamic, and all that geothermic activity makes it easy to ascribe magic to the land itself.

In the foothills of the Washburn range, just north of the Yellowstone River and in the shadow of the huge dinosaur bones up in the bluffs, lay the town of Skeleton Rise. Weren’t much to look at at first glance, nor second glance neither; no railroad this far into unorganized territory, so the town started dying when the gold dried up. Still, there was a town, and a well, and a saloon, and that’s pretty much all you need out in the west.

Around the town, there weren’t much but the trees and the rocks, and the raptor-infested badlands a little farther on. If you went south you’d get to Crow country, but God help the poor soul who blundered through there. The Crow put up with the town, but they didn’t much like it.

So there were the trees, and the rocks, and the two travelers coming up the river valley, one on a devil-black horse and the other driving a gaudily painted wagon. The driver was talking the rider’s ear off, and her not saying much in return.

Farther behind them on the road, kicking up all kinds of dust, came the stagecoach. It was running heavy, on account of all the books in one of the trunks. A young man sat inside, staring out the window at the wildness. He hadn’t ever seen its like before.

From the east, coming from the badlands, rode a young woman with a dead raptor ‘cross the haunches of her painted horse.

Down in Jackson’s Hole they know ‘bout Skeleton Rise. Know ‘bout it dying, on account of there being no more gold. But if you buy ‘em a beer, or two, or three, they know ‘bout the nightmares that stalk the outskirts at night and the witch in the hills, too. So the preacher-man turned his Ruth’s reins toward Indian Country and wondered if a 35-year-old mule could outrun a raptor pack.

And sitting in the saloon, playing his cards and biding his time, waited the gambler. He’d followed his luck farther west and farther north till he stopped in this Godforsaken ghost of a town. He should have moved on. He hadn’t.

Skeleton Rise was calling them all, for one reason or another. She had somethin’ in store for them.

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