Okay, back to the "real world." O.D. was at the ranch for only three more years after Foundry Day. His mortgage got too high and his crops were ruined by some bad weather and well, I guess you know that story. He borrowed some money from one guy, Archibald Stewart, and promised to pay him back after a year. He couldn't, and as a result Mr. Stewart got the Ranch and everything on it in 1881.

He sold a third of the interest in the ranch to one guy, who came down and used the grapes to make wine and raisins. Next year, 1882, Stewart and his family came down to manage the place themselves. He must have done a good job with the place because the farm continued to work, but folks in the area said that Mr. Stewart was a piece of work. One of those people who walk around with a chip on their shoulder the size of a gin-joint. Okay... yeah, a real asshole. That suits him.

Now, come 1884, Mr. "asshole" Stewart managed to get himself killed. There's two different versions of the story as to who's to blame. One has it that some local desperado named Parrish killed him, but that's probably not true. The other, which has three people saying as much, but still sounds fishy, was that a disgruntled ranch hand named Henry did it.

Seems Henry walked off the job and went to go stew in his juices at another ranch nearby, the Kiel ranch. When Stewart found out, he got a rifle, claimed he was going to go kill a steer, and then took his horse out to the Kiel ranch and snuck up on it by foot. Henry supposedly saw him coming with the rifle and went to get a gun of his own. A
firefight went off on both sides of a wooden door, and it ended with Stewart dead on the ground with a bullet in the head.

Everyone figured that Henry had acted in self-defense and no one was really sorry for Stewart. Kiel came back to find this dead guy on his doorstep and wrote Mrs. Stewart a letter telling her to take her husband away. When she got there the body was lying under a blanket, and she was convinced that more than one man was involved in the
killing. Parrish was later investigated in absentia... where's that? It's Latin. It means he wasn't there for his own trial.

Hey, no problem... where was I? Oh, yeah, and this grand jury blamed Parrish for everything under the Sun except for roaches and saddle sores, up to and including the murder of Mr. Archibald Stewart. I don't know what happened to Henry and, as far as I know, Parrish stayed in absentia for some time after that grand jury.

Stewart's wife, Helen, stayed at the ranch and hired a foreman to watch after the ranching and the farming. After that it became pretty popular with the prospectors and miners. For a dollar a day you could have good food on a clean table and a nice, shady tree to sleep under, which was a big change from jerky and flapjacks in a hot, dusty
mine. And so it went on into the early parts of this century.

General Jim?

Ah, thank you... okay, so that's what was happening in the Skinlands. In the Shadowlands, things were starting to get back to normal, sort of.

After the explosion of the Foundry, which we all call Foundry Day around here - no, no great parade or anything - they had to turn business away while they repaired the mess. That created all kinds of problems in LA, as you might expect, and the LA Necropolis shipped over a bunch of their engineers to start making new ones.

Yes. Smart boy. That was an intentional plural. If they made a bunch of smaller ones rather than one, big one they could get back to normal faster. Also, with more than one they could weather another sneak attack if it came down to that. The remnants of the original were broken up for scrap and the base was left aside in front of Fort Baker as a
reminder to stay vigilant.

And then there were the trials. After Foundry Day, the Hierarchy conducted an internal inquiry... some legions did, anyway... to figure out who should have been blamed for the lack of discipline. Some Legions decided to punish the men involved, providing they hadn't been carted off by injuns or sent into a harrowing, and some Legions decided
that their Regents were to blame and had them recalled for some pretty heavy-duty explaining back home. One decision that was pretty much across the board, though, was that getting orders from LA was for the birds. A better, more local chain of command was needed.

That and Foundry Day kind of ended any illusion of cooperation between the Legions. From that point on, each Legion was responsible for smelting its own when they came through, rather than everyone pitching in for the cause. As a result, the Grim and the Skeletal Legions were working almost around the clock while the Paupers and the
Legion of Fate were hardly working at all. Of course, the Paupers tended to thrall anyone who came through because they needed all the help they could get, and the Doomed always seemed to know when someone was coming through and could stoke the fires accordingly, so that was no problem.

And then there were the Restless Natives. The Hierarchy figured out some plan where the Legions who weren't getting that many souls to process could smelt indians instead. So the Paupers and the Silents and the Penitents could still have something to do, of course. And no, Fate wasn't in on the plan because they only wanted to take care of their own.

However, neither arrangement lasted for too long. By the time they got that all figured out the era of the wagon trains was coming to a close. The reaper caravans were becoming less frequent because those wagon trails were also becoming less frequent. The railroad was linking cities from the East to places West, making the trip less risky
for the Quick, and if you have a choice to make between fast and safe or slow and unsure, what are you going to take? Bingo.

Now, the Ghost Riders. They were still making pretty good headway, now that the Hierarchy had given 'em the legal right to catch and smelt any Indian they found anywhere, anytime. Any of them who came through could be assured of swift service at the hands of one of the smaller Legions. And now that they had big iron horses to ride, if you get
my drift...?

Oh yeah, the living Indians might have tried to run from those things but the dead ones were all over them, trying to sabotage the tracks or attack the trains themselves. It was quite a sight from what I've been told: you'd have some riders following along at full gallop on their deathsteeds, some up in front of the train looking for ghostly damage -
the real thing they couldn't do anything about, of course: Dictum Mortuum - and you'd have a few wagons in back to pick up the attackers that the Ghost Riders winged.

The problem with that was, there was no railroad in Las Vegas. So the majority of Ghost Riders were all having to take their goods elsewhere to be smelted down. A few would still come by on horseback, but it was a pity fuck and the local Hierarchy knew it. Everyone was taking the damn train to get to California, so the ground traffic wasn't
what it was, either. So the undead economy of Las Vegas kind of sputtered to a halt and the only thing they had to smelt are any of the locals who croaked and the occasional Spectre. And that's not much.

Of course, by that point it's a moot point. You had a bunch of dead guys and gals who'd been there for decades, working their asses off for the Hierarchy. If there's nothing for them to do, you find something else for them to do.

And that is when here got here, if you take my meaning.

The Hierarchy had been making and holding an iron line and pushing West, and sending their Ghost Riders out as advance agents. But after they got so far at a really, really slow pace they realized that it was going to take darn near forever to clean up the West that way. The Ghost Riders were using up relic bullets like no one's business, and even
with all the ones they got from the Civil War they were going to run out sooner or later.

So some smart guy back in Stygia, of all places, decided the war would go a lot faster if they could attack from many fronts at once and catch the natives in a squeeze play rather than making them retreat to the Pacific. To do that you would have to have battle platforms scattered throughout the Tempest to act as staging grounds for troops.

So, this tempest fortress, along with a few other similar models, was manufactured in Stygia, pushed through the Tempest, and left to orbit over Necropoli throughout the Plains and the West. Each one was supposed to be parked next to a large nihil, or fitted with a Necropolis Port where there wasn't a nihil handy. Each one was also garrisoned with several cohorts of Stygia's finest.

They also had a special surprise on board for us. Remember when I said they thought we needed a closer chain of command? In Hiearchyspeak that means it's time to create another level. So on board this tempest fortress were eight Overlords, here to take command of their Legions with a proclamation from their Deathlord in Stygia in one hand
and a sword in the other. This raised a shitstorm like you would not believe, but hey, that's the Hierarchy. What are you gonna do? Quit?

When this one got here the first thing these Overlords did was to move Fort Baker and the foundries from the Shadowlands onto the platform, and then they began to offload cohort after cohort of Stygia's armies into the Shadowlands to begin marching on dead Indians. Whatever they caught, they brought back for smelting, and before long the furnaces were all going so hot that even in the Tempest you were supposed to be able to see this platform from a hundred miles away from all the fire.

In the Skinlands, a lot of stuff happened, most of it elsewhere. I don't know how much of it's true and how much of it's just stories, so I won't even begin to touch all that because we'd be here for two years and General Jim will need some Slumber time, eventually. Speaking of which? Ah, thank you...

Thanks. Here's to the American Indian, my friend. They weren't all good and they weren't all noble but they weren't all thieves or all bad, either. They were people, and people are like potato chips: no one's just the same as the other and there's lots of different brands and tastes but they're all still potatoes. They all go stale and start to smell
funny when you leave 'em out in the Sun, and they all go "crunch" when you step on 'em.

No, they were just people. And their ghosts were just ghosts. God have mercy on them all.

Anyway, right around the turn of the century the forward observers of the cohorts start noticing that the opposition's numbers keep seeming to shrink. Although they're all being pushed together in the center of the continent, they're getting less and less in number. How can that be? They don't know, and looking for them in the Tempest doesn't
work, either. There was one, last great battle at some place whose name I can't remember, and after that the ghostly Indians were never seen again.

Oh, sure, Native Americans still died, and some of them still became ghosts, but the old order was gone, somehow. They weren't being led by tribal chiefs who had lived and died in the days before us White folks had shown up. Their ghostly traditions and ways weren't being taught because there was no one left to teach them. Their dead, from
that point on, were the dead who had grown up knowing there was a shadow on the East coast that was moving West and would not stop until everything in between was a reflection of itself. They never...

Ah, screw it. I'm getting corny. Bottom line: if you meet a dead indian today he's either a useful member of Stygia or he's some goofball Heretic or angry and dumb Renegade who bought into all that American Indian pride bullshit that went South in the 60's courtesy of the FBI. The look in the eyes isn't the same, and the words out of their mouth
are all a lot of crap boiled together with some groovy lingo they aped out of that "Dances with Fields of Water" movie. Harmless and helpless, every one.

The old timers here aren't scared of that bunch, see, but if you ask them about the Dark Kingdom of Flint they get the look in their eye... yeah, you know that look. Say you're dating this cute gal and suddenly someone asks you what you're going to do when her old boyfriend, currently in prison for assault, gets out on parole next year. It's that

And no, I don't ask them all that often, either. There's fun and then there's dumb, and the two tend to get you killed when mixed up for a laugh. I could go into personal details, but someone won't let me. You get my drift, right?

Right. Keep 'em coming, Jimmy. Keep 'em coming.