November 19th, 1878
For those keeping score: the Marshall was on the take of the guy who ran all the crime, the brothel was a den of soul-sucking demons, and the missing preacher had an injun zombie chained up the basement chanting the name of a Very Bad Man. Heh. But wait…there’s more…
The party debates the zombie briefly, including taking note that it seems to shuffle vaguely East by Northeast, which incidentally is the direction of Detroit, KS. The blood on the floor appears to be several days old, the zombie at least a week or longer dead. Finally, Onesimus shoots the thing in the head, (re)killing it.
By that point, Seri had grown restless and left the church. Ahiga and Ed following behind. Seri scouts out The Duchess, going so far as to turn herself into a housefly and scout the interior. She returns to where Ahiga is hiding at about the same point that the rest of the party catches up. They debate for a few minutes longer before Seri heads into The Duchess, plops down a load cash at the bar to convince the bartender to serve whiskey to a young girl, and starts drinking. The rest of the party piles in after her.
They’re met by Rita, one of the doves of the house, who everyone in the party finds strikingly, even unnaturally beautiful. They are served drinks and are made as comfortable as any of them are willing to get. It isn’t long, however, before Holden and Jacob are, quite uncharacteristically, giving up on their theories about The Duchess and wanting to leave, and Ed, even more uncharacteristically, has Rita in his lap.
Onesimus, recognizing that all is not right, attempts to get the party to leave, and Olivia says a prayer to dispel magics on Rita. Rita shies away from Olivia’s cross, and the three men snap to from the thrall they were under. With Rita demanding they leave, Onesimus ushers the party out the door. As Seri leaves, she lights a large bundle of dynamite and chucks it into the bar.
The Duchess bar explodes, setting fire to the remainder of the building, killing the bartender and two local patrons instantly. Onesimus races in the building to look for survivors. He finds one on the ground floor and gets him out of the building. He sees Rita unharmed, standing in the flames, looking at him accusingly. He then races up to the second floor where he finds another survivor and tosses him off the veranda to relative safety. He discovers a final body in one of the bedrooms, mummified as Farley and the man Ed found in the alley, and escapes out the window before succumbing to the smoke.
The few townsfolk brave enough to come out in the night make a half-hearted effort to fight the fire, but disperse when it proves to be ineffective. The Duchess burns to the ground, thankfully not catching any neighboring building on fire. The two survivors that Onesimus rescued give him their thanks and go their separate ways.
The party makes it back to the church. As Onesimus closes the doors behind him, he sees the figures of three women in the dark at the edge of the church property.
It looked as if it was the dead man who had drawn the sigil. In blood, of course. I did not think he was, or had been, one of them; the ones I was following were whites and Mexicans. The paint indicated that he had come from the same group that attacked us back at the farm, the ones with the small dolls.
Their Singer seemed to be involved in this somehow, though it was not clear whether he was one of them or if he was hunting them. Still, he had kept this dead Dakota chained in his basement, which did not speak well of him.
Still, there was little more to be gained from the place, and I was eager to get out again. The black man decided to shoot the dead man, and so I left. I had no need to see it die again, and in case its spirit was still around, I found it best to leave, so as not to attract any attention.
Besides, I thought I had heard the door, and was thinking Rat Girl had gone wandering off again. Until I had found the ones I was looking for, I did not think it wise to let her wander off on her own.
She went back to the strange women’s house, looking through windows, and climbing up to the second level to look around there. Then she came back down and went inside. By then, the others had arrived as well, and we all ended up inside again.
We were offered something to drink, but I declined. Stay away from the stuff the belegana, the whites, drink; it is not good for you. It clouds the mind and makes people do stupid things. And it leaves a craving for more as well. It is wise to stay away from it.
And then, things started to go wrong.
The Chinaman, who until then had not shown much interest in women, got up and walked over to a table where a couple of the women were seated, and sat down with them. One of them went over to him and sat in his lap, and he looked far too interested, and seemed to take no notice of anything else. It was as if he was entranced by something.
Another thing occured to me then. One of the others, I think it was one of the belegana, had mentioned that the dead, mummified bodies we had found, might have been killed by some kind of witches, and that some of them might live in the house we were in. Why anyone would visit a house full of witches, I cannot say. But after all, they were belegana, and they rarely make sense.
I went over to the Chinaman and told him we should leave. He did not even acknowledge my presence. That convinced me something was seriously wrong. He would not have ignored me like that under normal circumstances.
Someone once told me that mirrors might sometimes show someone’s true nature. I started trying to find a mirror to see if that could help me, when the Singer Woman did something that made the women pull away. The Chinaman seemed to regain awareness of his surroundings, while the women were quite angry.
For a short while, I thought we would end up in a fight, but they let us leave the building. I thought we could go back later and perhaps deal with them, or at least show the townspeople what they were dealing with later. But then Rat Girl threw one of her exploding sticks into the room as she left.
There were two explosions, and the building started burning. Around us, people were starting to peek out of their windows, or come out into the street to see what was going on. Since we were strangers here, and several of us were not belegana, I thought we needed to run before they decided to punish us for what had happened.
Then the black man did something extremely foolish and brave. He ran back into the burning building, and started to drag people out. I suppose I should have helped, but the building was burning, people had died in there, and there were witches and possibly worse in there.
The fire, I could have handled. But the thought of the dead, and that they had died with reasons to be angry with us, that worried me.
The black man dragged out a couple of survivors, and the Singer Woman healed them. Then we returned to their place of worship. At that point, all I wanted was to leave. We needed to find the missing Singer, and if someone had seen us when Rat Girl threw her exploding sticks into the house, we might have a lynch mob after us soon. And even if they had not, we were strangers, some of us were not belegana; the black man, the Chinaman and I would stand out no matter what, and attract attention. Someone had already tried to stop us, and there had been dead men inside the place of worship. All in all, I had no wish to stay the night.