1 · The Gold Rush
A long time ago in the American West there was a small and peaceful valley lying in the shadow of the red buttes known as Big Thunder Mountain.
A river ran through its landscape of forests and plains, broken up by a number of islands, one of which was home to the mountain itself, an imposing rock formation composed of vertical peaks and natural stone arcs.
It was little wonder that this unique landmark inspired the imagination of those who lived in the valley. Ancient traditions of the native tribes, in fact, told of a powerful spirit protecting the mountain...
Known as the Thunderbird, this deity would punish anyone who dared disturb the sacred rocks of Big Thunder. It was said that a flap of its mighty wings would cause the earth itself to tremble and open up.
For the longest time, the spirit’s rule was respected by all... until, one day, white settlers arrived in the area. Searching the land for precious minerals and other riches, they didn’t care to heed the natives’ warnings of a vengeful deity.
Indeed, their search would soon prove successful. A rich vein of gold was discovered in the red rocks of Big Thunder Mountain and as soon as word got out, more and more settlers streamed into the area transforming the serene wilderness into a lively and steadily growing gold-rush town. The year was 1849, and the town would bear the name of Thunder Mesa.
Over the following years, railroad cars and riverboats carried more and more prospectors and fortune-hunters into town, each hoping to strike it rich. The owner of the mine, an industrial baron called Henry Ravenswood, soon founded the Big Thunder Mining Company in order to handle the increasing mining operations in and around the mountain.
For his own family, the increasingly wealthy Mister Ravenswood began construction of a splendid mansion on a hill overlooking the sprawling town. Apart from the four-story manor-house painted in white with a red gable roof, the estate encompassed vast gardens decorated with marble statues as well as the family cemetery on the banks of the river.
Its owner’s dearest pride and joy, however, was his beautiful young daughter Melanie. She grew up protected, free to pass her time in the expansive manor gardens under Henry’s watchful eye.
Indeed, things appeared to be going quite well at Thunder Mesa. A showgirl known as Diamond Lil, who somehow got into possession of an enormous gold nugget, opened a luxurious saloon and dance hall called the Lucky Nugget. The wealthy elite of Thunder Mesa presided in the stately Silver Spur Steakhouse. Even the undertaker Jeremiah Nutterville couldn’t complain about business.
All of this good fortune, however, was about to change...