November 22nd, 1878
Finding Ronald Patton dead and the rest of the clan missing shook everyone up, but finding out this Father Patrick fellow was some sort of holy warrior on the same quest as everyone else…well…
The party cautiously enters main street Detroit. The town appears to have been abandoned for at least two or three weeks. There are small signs of trouble visible – a spatter of blood here, a bullet hole there – and the symbol of the lion-like Drowned Coyotes is drawn on a few buildings, but there’s no particular sign of wholesale slaughter.
The local saloon and inn is equally deserted, and it appears to have been abandoned in a hurry, desiccated meals sit on tables, etc. From the roof, Onesimus notices that a nearby ranch was burned to the ground.
After leaving the tavern, the party makes its way down the main street of the town towards the sheriff’s office. Outside, they find dozens upon dozens of tracks in the snow, and peering through the windows reveals several dozen dead bodies stacked in the main room. The bodies appear to be in mixed states of decomposition, and the party supposes they were zombies at one time.
Holden and Jacob go to the back of the jail to investigate a wisp of smoke and the smell of beans coming from one of the barred cell windows. After calling out, the occupant reveals himself to be an acquaintance of Onesimus and Jacob, a Texas Ranger named Brady Sims who helped them out in a previous assignment.
Sims reveals he was sent to Abilene for the same reason the two U.S. Agents were – to find Joshua and put an end to the massive sources of evil in the region. He’d been trying to locate the nest of The Red Lion for a week and finally traced the zombie infestation to Detroit. He notes that pretty much anyone who had died in a twenty-five mile radius in the last month or so was likely haunting the place – which is why he locked himself in a cell in the sheriff’s office to eat and sleep (the zombies in the lobby were his doing).
Onesimus inquires about automatons, and Sims does note that “yeah, we have two at the base we absolutely don’t officially have in Wichita”.
Sims notes that there are two primary hives of the zombies, the mission to the Southeast of town, and an old fort to the Southwest. He says the fort is likely the lair of the Red Lion, and he called for backup a few days prior from his superiors, but none has arrived.
The party agrees to clear out the mission, and they assault the gates. Dozens of zombies lay in wait, and a pitched battle ensues…
We entered the town carefully, warily. It was quiet; the unsettling, scary kind of quiet that you sometimes get during a deadly cold spell during winter. No anmial sounds at all, it was as if the entire world was hiding or holding its breath. Not even the sound of running water; maybe the stream was completely frozen. The wind, we _could_ hear. It whispered beneath the bridge, with a voice that spoke of terror and death. It rustled through the naked trees with a promise of blood, making the trees reach after us with long claws. They felt hungry.
The town was deserted. From what I could see, there had not been anyone alive here for a while. The dead, however, that was a different matter. There were plenty of signs of them here. And on several of the doors, a symbol was painted. The symbol of the Drowned Coyotes.
We looked around, first in the saloon, which also had a symbol on its door, but found nothing really helpful. There had been some trouble there, and it was obvious that whatever had happened had happened fast. It seemed at least one or two had been interrupted in the middle of a meal, and there were signs of a struggle here, though no bodies. Of course, any bodies had probably stood up and walked out of the place after they died.
There was very little of interest to be found in that building, so we headed outside. The others had spoken several times of checking out the sheriff’s office, but now they were just standing there, trying to figure out where to go next. So I walked in the direction of the office. The town was small enough that everything was within shouting distance, and I had no intentions of actually going inside. I just wanted to check the place out.
When I got closer, I smelled, faintly, beans, and there was a little bit of smoke coming out from the back of the sheriff’s office. The others had followed, and a couple of them went behind the building to check out the smoke. I looked through a window, and saw a large number of dead bodies, most of them had probably been of the walking dead.
We could hear someone whistling inside, and to my knowledge, the dead usually did not bother making beans, and and neither did they whistle, at least not in this way. Thinking that most walking dead would probably also not knock, I decided to try just that. Whoever was inside should be able to figure out that we were alive.
The whistling stopped when I knocked, and the men behind the building called out to whomever was inside. Eventually, he opened the door, and surprisingly, he was an aquaintance of the black man and Exploding Man. At least that took care of the trust issue on his part. From what I could tell, they had worked together before, and he was here to investigate the source of the evil in the area.
He too mentioned the Red Lion, and something about what he said made me stop and think. It was a terrible terrible thought, and I did not want to think about it further, but the more I tried to ignore it, the more it made sense.
The Red Lion had been active for a couple of months. I had been hunting the Drowned Coyotes for longer than that. The whites often refer to us; not just the People, but the Chisi, the Yát Dìndé, and any of the other people who lived here before the whites arrived; as redskins. And my she’aszdáán, well, her name means cat. Suddenly, I was wondering if my she’aszdáán could be the Red Lion.
I did, of course, not mention this to the others; I did not trust them that much. In fact, the only one I trusted to some extent was the Chinaman, but this was too personal, and still just a thought, so I did not share it even with him. I could be seeing connections where none existed. I probably was, or so I hoped.
The new man, a Texas Ranger, told us that the dead had two bases that he knew of. One was a stronghold to the southwest, the other was a mission to the southeast. According to him, there would not be too many for us to handle at the mission, and he suspected the Red Lion was at the stronghold.
To ensure our safety, it was decided that we would try to rid the mission of the walking dead. Of course, we could have locked ourselves inside the sheriff’s office during the night, like the Ranger had done. Still, ridding the world of more walking dead was a good thing, in my opinion, so I did not bother to protest.
When we arrived at the mission, the black man tried to kick the door open. He failed. In my experience, though, the dead would probably not bother with locking their door, so I leaned over and tried to open it the regular way. The door was unlocked, and opened inwards. Whether they knew we were coming, or the noise had alerted them, I did not know, but as the door opened, one of the dead suddenly jumped out and attacked me.