Thursday, 2 December 2021

Cowpoke Canyon

  1. The Star Pit. Old, old silver mine. Short shaft down to a little stringball of tunnels. Carvings on the walls from the dawn of time, frayed ghosts mutter in long dead languages. Pitch black for the first week, til you start to pick out the little stars glowing in the walls. Rumour is, one inmate is here on purpose.
  2. Rock Tub. Stone huts in the palm of a caldera. Unfenced, but the walls are steep and there's a feller with a bow chain-smoking on the rim. Everyone would freeze in winter but for the hot pools. Minerals in the water grow strange crops and turn the inmates odd colours. Rumour is, one good whack and the whole place will blow.
  3. Shady Canyon. Miserable geology only lets in half an hour of direct sunlight a day. Everyone inside swears it'd be better to have no sun at all, but would kill to preserve their thirty minutes of rapture. Rumour is, the warden runs experiments of a similar vein, addicting prisoners to various miniscule pleasures.
  4. Dead Horse Lake. Humourous misnomer. There's no lake, and horses would die a day's ride from here. Only access is by a very inbred team of camels. Prisoners are set to digging, seeking a second to the miraculous, miniscule spring that keeps them all alive. Rumour is, once they find water, they'll all be killed to make way for whatever this place was supposed to be.
  5. The Bawdy House. Right in the middle of town, with two sets of bars on every window. Convicts with all sorts of incredible talents labour diligently, or else. Clothes colour-coordinated according to caste. Artists, forgers in blue. Chefs, moonshiners in yellow. Entertainers wear green, the guards wear black. Rumour is, the people in pink aren't here for their conversational skills, but for possessing forbidden knowledge.
  6. Broken Oak. Once a hanging tree, so well used all the lower limbs are snapped off. The prison around it is a dead man's row. Lifers with commuted sentences fish trout from a lazy river. The unjustly accused share laments, cigarettes with criminals of passion. Rumour is, their sentences are only stretched out so they can provide inspiration for up and coming country musicians.

  1. Glass bottle o' Djinn Djuice. Scull it and burp out a wish. Prob'ly won't come true but it's better to let the djinni out the easy way. These commercial distilled spirits ain't so mightily magical as a wild desert sirocco, but djinn and gin goes down a real treat in any case.
  2. Pole of Power. This 'uns only 6 inch high. On the prairie they come 18 feet, spaced out regular along the ley lines, all carved up like ancestors and animals. Used for prayer, channeling various forces, sending whatever a 'telegram' is.
  3. Stopped Watch. Hands don't move, but it still ticks. Anyone as can hear it ticking can't tell time's passing. They'll work happily at most any drudgery, chat in circles for hours, watch their train arrive, wait, and depart, and only then stand up and say "Damn!... I've missed my train."
  4. Railway Bug. Not clockwork, so don't try twisting its wings. Clatters unerring along the flattest path to the strongest scent of gold. Sadly, almost certain to be a local bank, not a fresh vein. Still a fine way to find your way home, along a meandering geodesic of no more than 6% grade.
  5. Weird Module. Looks like a metal dreamcatcher, hums like an idle stablehand. Sing to it at the wrong pitch and it'll shake and scream and blister your ears. The right pitch will echo forward like a fist, a tight ball of noise fit to knock the horns off a buffalo.
  6. Paper Money. Just little pieces of paper with '$10' written on, but the inks are very fine, the handwritting cursive, the watermark ethereally beautiful.... maybe they really are worth money?

  1. Jessie Custard. Cross-dressing daughter of a witch and a priest. Carves little pentangles on her bullets and bathes her gun in 'holy' oil, but don't know nothin real about magic.
  2. Ol' Gnome Chomsky. Hairy little fellow, walks around salt pans with a sieve, assaying the quality of the rocksalt. Suspected about once a week of having found gold. He's a mite forlorn about all the poor, greedy souls he's had to put a bullet through.
  3. Lori 'Lightfoot' Chicago. Buffalo hunter. Has never found one but she'll let you know if she does. Quasi-famous for she don't rustle cattle though they do seem to love her, will sniff her out and would follow her down to Dixie if she let 'em.
  4. Marcia 'Black Lung' Hernandez. 11th generation coal miner. Can prove well enough her family mine has been operational for near 800 years. It still is, though she herself is holidaying, and happy to pay good money for anything that gets her blood moving.
  5. "Biting" Joe Biden. Septuagenarian cattle baron, got lost riding the edge of his range. Can't remember the names of the towns he once owned, or the sons that carved them up when he went missing.
  6. Darvood 'Angel' Sarvari. Blue eyed, dirty haired, catsup stain stigmata. Drags around a child's coffin, packed with a sticky, powdered blend of cocaine, quinine, laudanum, caffeine, digitalis, datura, crystalized snake powder and sugar. Refers to it as 'quite a spicy mélange', but insists any astral travelling is 'all in your head, man'.

  1. My cows'v been stolen! It's that dang gang up'n the canyons again. Won't you gettem back?
  2. My cows'v been stolen! You oughta find 'em 'fore the feller *I* stole them off hears about it.
  3. My cows'v been stolen! Well, I think so... Else there's something else chasing them over the range
  4. My cows'v been stolen! The gang as gottem is too tough to fight, though I've a chubby neighbour with chubby herds that wouldn't miss a few head...
  5. My cows'v been stolen! Though they were getting a little inbred anywho... Care to come help lasso a few new, wild, angry bulls?
  6. My cows'v been stolen! We caught this shifty, scraggly lookin' feller. Help us lynch him 'fore the sheriff starts asking for evidence.

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