Chapter 16: Compañeros Plot in Legends of Elohey | World Anvil

Chapter 16: Compañeros

This cattle trail aimed
straight and true

In Chapter 15: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the SNAFU Posse took down one of the ultimate Big Bads of this entire campaign: Methurgh the Cloven Prince, whose associates over the course of a decade helped engineer "The Troubles" between farmers and ranchers within a certain range of Oatman Canyon. The goal was always to get their monarch into a suitable corporeal vessel, that devastation might rain down upon the parched soil. The souls of the mortal conduits will be diverted to pour their supernatural wellsprings' power into the Hell Herd. As more of the Herd roosts in converted hosts, they will imprison more of these mortal conduits to power.
This plan has been working better than the Cloven Prince anticipated

... until ...

As it stands now, dry and hot under the ash-black noon sky:
  • The size of the Hell Bovine Herd has dropped from over 400 individuals, with 10 close by in the grassy yard around Sarsparilla Bunkhouse to do their King's bidding, down to only 1 possessed and direly injured who cannot stop her panicked run long enough to do anything about anything at all. Those who originally had custody of Princess Alfredo-Alston and the Girl in the Flowery Poncho -- prisoners desired by Methurgh, who no longer gives the orders around here == mostly like unconscious or worse on the sooty late summer grass!
  • The size of the Hell Woolies Flock has dropped from over 60 individuals, with 15 clustered in nearby squads ready to transport the next sacrifice to the King's Gate, down to no Woolies in operational range. By the sounds, one may be inside Sarsparilla Bunkhouse at the Cloven Princess's whim. That is not a preferred place to stand!
  • The recently-advanced Hell Hand Duos and Trios, still a rare resource at this stage, have been whittled down significantly. A splintered Duo fled westward. Of the northern Sarsparilla Duo, neither Hell Hand has a horse; one Hell Hand suffered several injuries, the other found a temporary means to swap sides back to his mortal employer's command. The Mullins Duo have dragged the Cloven Prince's power-infused weaponry off the shuttered Gate and now look for other tasks that will suit their demonic possessors' commands.
Master Farvald Kerner did not expect to be deprived of his Will-Bound servant, the Outsider dryad Scaevola Aemula.
He especially did not expect to have her replaced by a bona-fide Druid volunteer.
After adapting his plans to suit his changed resources, Master Kerner in no way supposed that he might get attacked within his own fortifications by the SNAFU Posse.
And swiftly demolished!
When EvilSeed's lifeseed sprouted a fresh body, it should have been more than week later. Kerner would have expected to face extraordinarily difficult circumstances for his mission. He would have expected almost all of his constructed tools to have withered or gone dormant, while the Hellish enemy forces expanded.
He would have anticipated setbacks, if he had any conscious thought during that time at all.
Master Kerner returned to himself in a nearly perfect strategic position: Within the very range he meant to claim from Whippetal Ranch! His roots sunk into moist, fertile soil! Hypervibrant plant growth in nearly every direction! The Cloven Prince far too occupied by a sorcerous aggravation to recognize an educated threat! The Will-Bound Druid immediately to hand, ready to be ordered into tactical action! And suitable, defeated but not deceased enemies soaked in the enemy's own power, handy for a quick power-boosting blood sacrifice.
EvilSeed called for the Dusk Army and for Topiary Rex.
As the druid's fog swallowed everything, EvilSeed set to work.
The SNAFU Posse smashed or set afire key pieces of EvilSeed's plot!
The Hell Herd destroyed Rex!
The Posse lured one enemy into conflict with another until their own people were free to attack directly!
Master Kerner's regenerative powers were not sufficient to withstand so many blows in such short order. His fern-based husk got splattered across the fertile soil.
Will he rise again?
Almost certainly!
But that is probably a danger for another day.
  • And of course: the Cloven Prince has not merely suffered a personal setback. Not at all! His soul is trapped within a joined pair of spirit bottles! His custom-grown supernatural housing has dissolved! His Ominous Battleaxe and his Unholy Hammer both lie within the degrading design of a Gate to a Nefarious Reality.
  • Into the power vacuum sashays a Cloven Princess....
Moo... Dahling! by CB Ash using Hero Forge!
The Lady of the Choking Smog reaped mixed results from her work today. Inside the Bunkhouse, her "guests" disrupted her daily chores.
  • Scaevola Aemula escaped completely, dragging an exorcised Ghost Harrell far away from the scene.
  • The latest batches of desecrated herbs remain to be harvested. Some have suffered frostwilt from a divine snowfall. Some is ready for its ominous purpose.
  • Faith Harrell weeps for his lost love, for his lost spiritual security, for his raided home ranch, for the innocent animals corrupted to a terrible purpose, for the grim tasks set before him by his involuntary liege lady.
  • Methurgh failed to fully open Gate One.
    Well, that's not entirely a surprise.
    (It is Methurgh, after all.)
    He faced down the Moss Litch and ... did not emerge victorious.
  • Methurgh failed to bind this land to his will.
    It is Methurgh who took on that task!
  • Methurgh is now trapped in a pair of spirit bottles, sealed together at their mouths by Blessed Honey. That fragile conglomeration is in the custody of a mortal scholar
    who failed to hand Methurgh over upon his hostess's command!
Halisstra pursued the willful varmint out into an unexpected verdant thicket. She sent her vassal Hell Hand into the thicket to lasso the varmint, a task which the man is not finding at all simple. Meanwhile, Halisstra conducted several experiments to learn about the varmint's capabilities.
Once she felt that she had sufficient information, Halisstra slammed a Greater Curse into the monk's back:
Plant life in close proximity to Lee Chung wilts immediately.
His skin has begun to develop a coating of translucent green slime.
He is going to be quite unhappy when he discovers what happens to his cooking!

Opening Music




From Whippetal Ranch:  
  • Princess Alfredo-Alston and Chica Alston
    -- currently trying to help Leather Cobb wrangle the fiend possessing him.
  • Bull Hester
    -- accustomed to being a rough-and-tough Ranch Foreman, he knows his capabilities in a fight whether alone or working in duo. And they are the capabilities of a ranch hand, not a Hell Hand. When an enraged heifer attacks you, you use your better mobility on horseback. You use teamwork with your partner. You use your lasso. You use the fact that she can't see too clearly what is directly in the path of her charge.
    You stay out from in front of the charging beast.
    You turn her, and turn her, and exhaust her until she quits her fussing.
  • Gore Hester
    -- accustomed to being a rough-and-tough Ranch Foreman, she knows her capabilities in a fight whether alone or working in duo. And they are the capabilities of a ranch hand, not a Hell Hand. When an enraged heifer attacks you, you use your brains. You use teamwork with your partner. You distract her with too many targets. You work the terrain against her instincts, set up barriers she will believe to be immovable or painful.
    You keep well away from her head, those dangerous horns.
    You keep watch on your partner and your environment, always looking for a handy opportunity to bind up them legs.


Resisting fiendish orders with all the willpower they can dredge up:  
  • Kamen "Leather" Cobb
    -- switched sides when a guarding Hell Bovine went full fiend, trying to trample prisoners and Hell Hands and SNAFU Posse members and anyone who might wear a pair of ridin' boots, frankly.
    Now that the monsters around them are defeated, Kamen demanded of his boss Princess Alfredo-Alston that she give him orders he could follow.
    Orders that would take him away from a position to do harm.
    She's got him stomping his way northward to check for the scattered cattle. That's a good command for any ranch hand right enough! But she's also tellin' him that they are fixin' to rope his rider: her, Chica, and Foremen Gore and Bull Hester.
    Kamen don't reckon that's going to fall out so great.
  • Mystery Mullins
    -- always did like sparkly bits in motion, and sunsets, and honey lollipops.
    She called Sarsparilla Ranch home, once upon a time. Many years ago. That was before the owners sold out to the Alfredo Family. Big Lui de Alfredo offered to keep Mystery on. She always knew Lui had an appreciative eye for her, but she never wanted no part of him. Mystery has her Justice; they have their share of Larchblossom Ranch. That has always been aplenty.
    Well, Mystery has still got her Justice ... but for how long before the fiend rides ascendant?
    Mystery Mullins successfully held off the demon possessing her long enough to not attack the SNAFU Posse, but when she chose to fight Farvald Kerner ... she lost. The Moss Lich popped a Griefgall seedling into Mystery, forcing her to serve The Ministry. With the death of the plant master, Mystery nearly choked to death as the demon within his body rejected the seedling. "Miss Skye", elsewhere known as Zhang Sephia, was able to save the Mullins Duo from the Griefgalls! But she was not able to exorcise the fiends, who took advantage of their mounts' paroxysms to spit the Rose Wafers out.
  • Justice Mullins
    -- loves the sweet counterpoint of his partner's singing, and the hard swing of her chugunok into the gut of would-be rustlers, and the delighted spark in her eyes when she debates fine points in old court journals with him.
    The fiend inside Justice keeps taunting him. it flashes memories of the fine view from the hillside outside their private porch -- a view all spattered with blood, with the sounds of their herd screaming in terror while Eula chokes in a monster's grasp.
    Justice felt profound relief when he woke up in a hanging cage and saw his Mystery next to him, still alive, still able to talk. But then he felt shame and dread. His partner was sharing his doom. How could he be glad of her closeness now?
    The fiend does not care if Mystery stays at her Justice's side, or if Justice rides far away. Either is a worse torture than death. Not even the merciful ranger from the SNAFU Posse was able to free them!
  Freed from a modest hellscape inside Sarsparilla Bunkhouse:  
  • Scaevola Aemula
    -- had not intended to stop her journey here. As advised by the SNAFU Posse, she went to the Mage Quarter of Morodar for an enchanted scroll. She rested only as much as absolutely necessary before using the dryadic side of her heritage to race across Edoya for the tree-sized bush that holds her heart.
    It was a self-rescue mission.
    It required fast action and even faster strategy.
    It was violently disrupted when Methurgh, Cloven Prince, ruler of the Hell Herd, tapped into a ritual-in-progress to steal a priest in a bottle away from Ministry Transmogrifer Farvald Kerner.
    The misshapen ritual missed the Angelfire Apostle.
    Instead it trapped Chef of Skanktooth Clan ... and the half-fiend dryad racing from tree to tree across the nearby hillscape.
    The Lady of the Choking Smog stepped in.
    You can keep the Kobold to fuel your Gate Door, Sugar Boo. I'll take the hamadryad to desecrate and speed growth on our ritual components. We're going to require such a lot of them if you can get your chores done right!
    The next three days were not the worst of Scaevola Aemula's life. But they might run a close second!
    She was exhausted by the time Lee Chung and Zhang Sephia strolled into the Bunkhouse.
    But when the holy snowfall broke every law of reality to smother the desecration within the bunkhouse
    -- but did not frost-burn Scaevola Aemula,
    trapped though she was in a containment diagram! --
    she found within herself enough willpower to cast one subtle charm, dulling the fiendish intellect of the Cloven Princess for a short while.
    Now that she is free again, Scaevola Aemula feels the pressure of those lost three days. Surely The Ministry has already sent someone to slice another chunk free of Scaevola Aemula's heart! Salvation is more important than revenge!
    But is "salvation" a matter of repaying the divine mercy before she goes?
    Is it enough to save one unwilling human?
    Scaevola Aemula dropped the struggling woman high on a ridge of Oatman Canyon. If it's nearly impossible for a person to climb up there, then Ghost should be safe enough to recuperate for a bit. Meanwhile, the tiefling races away to the west-southwest, traveling from tree to tree, wild to reach her heart with enough lead time to escape The Ministry.
  • Ari "Ghost" Harrell
    -- lifelong resident of this region, used to contract out to every cattle drive for fifteen years before she decided her ma Lula the Raven needed more stability and lookin' after. She and her partner Faith threw their resources into a pot with the Mullinses and the Hawkins to collaboratively found Larchblossom Ranch. Ghost knows that she'll always be second in Faith's heart after his religion. That's fine by her: she likes a partnership to have some elbow room in it. Anyway she knows how tight jesses hobbled the Raven when Ghost was young -- that ain't a way Ghost could ever thrive.
    Ghost Harrell was an involuntary Hell Hand who got exorcised with no warning a couple minutes ago. While there was nothing "good" about being possessed, Ghost will need some time and maybe some help to recover from the changes to her senses -- and especially the part where she can no longer feel a supernatural connection to Faith.
    She sure heard that undefiable order to her Faith, though! If she could have fought her way out of a half-fiend dryad's grasp, she would have charged straight back to her partner.
    Damn that half-fiend anyhow! Her grip was too strong!
    Ghost is stuck atop a high ridge on the southern border of Oatman Canyon. She is up so high that she can see sunlight! The ash cloud blocks her view of Sarsparilla Ranch.
  • Liberata Pasquarella of Bicchieri Caravan
    -- caravan guard, apprentice accountant, for some reason plucked out of the crowd of enslaved barn-workers to become a Noon Sacrifice for the full opening of Gate One.
    (Okay, she knows why she was chosen: it's because she helped Boon and Bane Logan make an opening for Princess Alfredo-Alston, Lucky Alston, Jaeke Blaze escape to Cliff Daisy Arroyo.)
  Hidden away in the barn:


The Ministry

  • Master Farvald Kerner
    • The Briarseed Children have all been destroyed
    • Blood-sucking Cabbages might be trapped in an Entanglement until an hour after noon:
      • The Lone Cabbage!
      • A Happy Little Blood Cabbage!
      • Friend of a Happy Blood Cabbage!
      • By the Power of Blood Cabbage!
    • Converted ranch hands or Hell Hands:
      • Rye Hess got freed from demonic influence, then re-possessed, then infested with a Griefgall to make him serve The Ministry, then killed by a juvenile Woolly Rhinoceros
      • Harp Hess got freed from demonic influence, then re-possessed, then infested with a Griefgall to make him serve The Ministry, and finally choked to death as his body expelled the seedling Griefgall.
    • and of course:
    • Will-Bound Druid Jesse Devonshire.

The Nightmare Cow Level is nearly cleared:

  • Fleeing the continued onslaught of Xifeng:
    • moo 002
This leaves only:  

Exiting the Sarsparilla Ranch buildings:

  • The Cloven Princess, Lady of the Choking Smog, and sole current monarch of the entire Hell Herd
    • Dane "Faith" Harrell, formerly of Gild'mar, settled near Purgatory Gulch with his entire inheritance after several years' penpal friendship with Jaeke Blaze. He is a "man of the Book", a contented follower of Tinley who was a tad too physical to suit the life of a clergyman. He likes many details in the worship of Rhea Lightgiver, finding them a good complement to his primary religion, but the greatest love of his life will always be the Mountain of Knowing.
      Faith Harrell is an involuntary Hell Hand forced to serve the Hell Herd.
  • Baa 008
    -- did not want to come out from under the bed.
    The Lady of the Choking Smog has no interest in what a mere sheep may prefer. This is a lackey; it had best go lack!



Sarsparilla Ranch landmarks


Sarsparilla Bunkhouse

Used as an indoor forced-grow operation, the stone Bunkhouse is going to take a lot of scrubbing before it no longer carries a taint of desecration.
Sarsparilla Bunkhouse
It may be lacking in amenities, but this bunkhouse had a few comforts built into it for ranch hands who would be living here more than half the year around.
It also has an excess of Twisted Mesquite Tree and Terrified Hell Woolly.
Possibly someone has rummaged through the residents' bunk chests, too!

Sarsparilla Barn

Stillness rules the dark confines inside the stone barn.
Sarsparilla Barn
Here is a typical ranch barn on the Longgrass Plains region near Oatman Canyon.   VERY typical.   It was certainly constructed to hold cattle and/or sheep, not horses.   It is a large building constructed primarily of clay bricks mixed with occasional bits of shaped stone. The interior walls of the stalls are made from pieced-together wood segments which have been sanded smooth and completely re-stained every time they were repaired.   The floor is extremely clean.   Pegs on the walls along the center walkway could hold coils of rope, dunning forks, shovels, brushes, or various other tools of indoor cattle maintenance. (Currently the pegs hold nothing. But they COULD hold these things!)
This place holds a few subtle traces of the fiendish rituals conducted to convert a cow, sheep, ranch hand, or ... other ... into a servant of the Greater Hell Bovine.
For unknowable reasons, the barn has been cleared of all such beings and of most of their materials. Perhaps something is concealed under layers of hay? In a stall, or up in the hay loft?
Getting to the hay loft may require some ingenuity.
Firstly: The ladder is not within current sight!
Secondly: "Barn cats" do not come in 165 lb sizes where either Jesse Devonshire or Lee Chung grew up! They do not normally voice demanding questions in Minosh either, nor do they have to emulate a feline "meow" as if their own larynx was not meant to make just this noise.
Will Ranger Horn be safe in this barn?
We can only hope! The Posse has too much to do elsewhere!

Not Arriving at Gate One:

Hurrah! The Gate has been destabilized without creating a gigantic crater!
Why did it not stay shut once Farvald Kerner used Fun and Games to unbalance it?
Methurgh was an instant away from murdering Liberata Pasquarella in order to fuel the gate, when the SNAFU Posse showed up at pitch-dark noon. From this, one can reasonably deduce that Gate One requires a certain threshold of ambient death for its nefarious connection to a distant place.
All that would be necessary to keep it dormant, then, would be to not let any "large enough" or "strong enough" lives perish within proximity.
Better yet: Spiro and Zhang Sephia burned what haystacks in the Targeting Ring were not disrupted by Jessnabbit Smash. As their inner glow fades, so too do the spell lines for Gate One.

Sarsparilla Barn, the attached Bunkhouse, the ruins of the former ranch house, and immediately surrounding environs.


The spot near the northeastern barn door where the physical form of the Cloven Prince melted, that is a spot where nothing will ever grow -- not even worms, not even flies. The dirt from that spot will never be good for any life, neither!


Some other areas continue to show signs of fast plant decay. It will take many years for the residue of a druidic plant growth region followed by an infernal Greater Curse will work out of the soil. It will take almost as long for that persistent slime on the northwest face of the Bunkhouse roof to completely dry up and vanish, too!

Could it be reactivated?
Why, sure!
But someone who understands gate spells would probably have to do a little work on this ritual space.


Four major concerns lurk in the Victory Path of our heroes.


Lady of the Choking Smog

Every cattle herd has its leading lady. For the Hell Herd, that nightmare on hooves is Halisstra.
She has been deceived!
She has been insulted!
She has been disrespected!
And she is alleged to be savvier than her princely counterpart....
Haley gives mortals a chance to make themselves of use, unlike the Cloven Lunk now stuck in a pair of bottles. Once someone acts against her interests, however, this Princess believes in setting out an object precedent! She commanded her nearest lackey to restrain those who fled her Royal Presence. Surely she intends to take hand -- err, hoof -- in the matter directly?

Hell Hands

Justice and Mystery Mullins shared claim to Larchblossom Ranch with three other families. Of all those listed on the original deed:
  • The Hawkins family relinquished their claim, departing some years ago.
  • Nishat and Wong Opiatmasin may both be dead. If so, Dashi Opiatmasin, their heir, currently flees across Whippetal Ranch toward Alfredo House.
  • Ghost and Faith Harrell were captured jointly with the Mullins Duo, and likewise transformed into Hell Hands. Lula the Raven was expressly excluded from land ownership.
By binding the souls of these fiend-possessed lackeys, the Hell Herd knows a ritual to claim Larchblossom Ranch as their "native territory"!
Herd High Binders
Bowser Kotabe and Leather Cobb got themselves one complicated situation!
They ain't been working together so good since they came out of the conversion process … whereas Birdie Willis and Roz Golden ain't been seen in weeks. Neither man knows what happened to the missing half of their work team. Did they get assigned to a different barn? Or did they not make it through the long hours of infused smoke?
Life charges high for a momentary slippage, sure enough. But with all this sinister supernaturality going on around here, the stakes are far too high to risk any confusion!
Bowser was a mite annoyed that Leather took off after a quartet of Hell Bovines at the King's "kill order". Bowser and Leather were assigned to guard the Girl in the Flowery Poncho until the King was ready to make use of her. Plus they'd got custody of Princess Alfredo-Alston -- keep her captivated, keep her out of trouble, and this might all turn out just fine.
Leather's a might peeved that Bowser did not back Leather's play. Four of the Hell Bovines stayed to circle 'round the women, right? The only reason Leather sees for stickin' would be to watch over the safety of two hard-as-nails cowhands. And whose decisions got us into this muck, after all?
It gets worse that Leather had to abandon his horse in the thicket.
It gets a lot worse that Princess and Chica managed to steal the horse right out from under Bowser, taking off at a gallop. The four Bovines killed that horse to stop them.
Just to add to the confusion:
Whippetal Foremen Bull and Gore Hester showed up out of the fog, commanding the Hands to cleave to the Ranch Hand Code! To protect their employer, get her safely away from danger!
Git them cattle under your control!
Gore Hester to Leather Cobb and Bowser Kotabe
And the Hell Bovines responded by attacking the Hesters!
Any road, Bowser's now unconscious on the grass, bleedin' out slowly. Where will his fiendish rider go once he dies? It can't stay in the mortal world unless it has a proper mount. The prospects just now are the very ranch hands trying to save Leather.
Hell Hand of the Cloth
Inside the Bunkhouse, Zhang Sephia faced Faith Harrell -- man of the Book forced to become a Hell Hand -- but had to leave him draped across Chica Alston's bunk.
All his life, Dane Harrell was buoyed by his faith.
Demon possession rapidly withered that faith away.
When he felt the supernatural tie to Ari Harrell snap, Dane thought his last act as a decent man must be to resist the fiend inside him while the Harpy ranger escaped.
His struggle could not last indefinitely!
Now that the entire SNAFU Posse is outside Sarsparilla Bunkhouse, the matriarch of the Hell Herd commands her lieutenant into abhorrent action!
Can he be saved from fiendish damnation?
At this point, can any remaining Hell Hand be saved from damnation?
Somehow all the religious texts on stoppin' demonic power do not mention "have a Bugbear bounce up 'n' down on yer gut like a Suslik on a trampoline!"

Mysterious Book

Neon green light glows from this open book, albeit not as brightly as (to pick out a completely random example) the horns of a Hell Bovine.
The Mysterious Book was left open under the Pisky-sized gallows cage sometime after Xifeng first spotted it in the northwest yard. Probably it was moved to this spot by one of the Hell Woolies which Xifeng and Zhang Sephia defeated.
Chef has bled on it, to his own dismay.
Miro Teague has made a quick arcane assessment of it, and shared the general sense of his findings with his friend Bruthazmus Kele.
The banshee Storm Shepherd finds it disturbing indeed!
And where is this Mysterious Book? Why, in the custody of Bruthazmus Kele!

Save the Princess

All this time, the Hell Herd had specific plans for the rightful owners of Whippetal Ranch, plans made difficult by those forces who competed for custody of the Alfredo Family.
What happens if the blood and soul of Princess Alfredo-Alston water the fertile soil of Sarsparilla Ranch?
Does it matter that she has her official deed on her person?
Does it matter that Chica Alston was last known to be carrying the skull of Vítězslav de Alfredo?
One of the best action comedies you’ll ever see, Sergio Corbucci’s ‘Compañeros’ teamed genre heavyweights Franco Nero, as a natty Swedish arms dealer, and Tomás Milián, as a scruffy revolutionary leader, against a weed-smoking, one-handed Jack Palance who’s really, really obsessed with a falcon named Marshall.
— "The 20 Best Spaghetti Westerns Ever Made", Hollywood dot com clickbait article, January 2017

Articles under Chapter 16: Compañeros

Cover image: by CB Ash


Please Login in order to comment!