November 21st, 1878
Leaving town seemed to take a weight off our heads, and a night at The Drovers Cottage helped considerably. Heading on to Detroit though we began to feel it again, that pervasive…darkness. When we found our Washington friend’s train shot up, the engineer dead and guarded by a Confederate robot we thought, “well shit, why not?”
Before leaving the site of the train, Onesimus unlocks the small arsenal hidden aboard and some of the party increase their armaments somewhat.
The party begins to follow the zombie engineer down the tracks…until Seri inexplicably tosses a stick of dynamite at it, completely obliterating it. The party notes that the pattern of gore left behind forms the shape of the Drowned Coyotes symbol, but altered slightly so that it appears to be a lion.
The party continues on for several hours and note a burning carrion stench on the wind drifting from the direction of the nearby Patton farm. Olivia and others rush there as fast as they can and find the farm ransacked. The smell is emanating from a pile of dead livestock which had been placed on a bonfire. The main house looked as if it were assaulted from all sides and defended from within.
Inside, they find the body of Ronald Patton, pulverized against the wall of the living room. Again, the blood spatter forms the “red lion” shape.
Ahiga notes that dozens of tracks leave the farm and head into the fields in the direction of Detroit and follows them a short way after hearing the sounds of struggle coming from the fields.
Ahiga, Seri, and Ed find a man with an English longsword and a white cape bearing a red cross dispatching a small cluster of zombies at crater in which the party found Holden just days prior.
They discover that the man is Father Patrick O’Connor of Abilene. Olivia is surprised and overjoyed to see him. He explains to the party that he’s a member of a Roman order specifically created to combat supernatural evils and he was sent to investigate the stories of Joshua. He was using the zombie int he church cellar to attempt to locate the Red Lion, presumably the source of all of the risen dead in the area.
Holden and Onesimus discuss O’Connor’s longsword briefly with somewhat wide eyes.
The party spends the night in the loft of the Patton barn and continue on to Detroit in the light of day, determined to find the source of the threat. The landscape rapidly becomes extremely hostile and downright terrifying, the light of sun never quite penetrating, until they arrive at a small creek on the border of the seemingly deserted town of Detroit, KS.
Thank God for Father Patrick. The Good Lord kindly blesses me with His gifts at times, but I am a poor substitute for a true man of the cloth. Seeing him defy the evil at Roland’s farm was a wonder to behold.
But poor, poor Roland… I feel ill knowing that he died so horribly. Such a kind man torn from this world, like too many other good souls. I fear that the vision of his death, much like Gregory’s, will haunt me for a very long time. I so desperately want to remember the warmth of his smile – not the abominable sight in that room.
Sadly, not finding Emily, Rachel, or William Jr. just as terribly slaughtered is no comfort. Not after the other evils I’ve seen. Are they shambling mindlessly toward Detroit even as I write this? I pray that’s not so. May they find safety and peace, no matter where they might be!
Other than finding Father Patrick (Thank the Lord!), God did bless me with another reminder to be strong. I know they all have their own reasons for being in this foul land, but I truly didn’t expect my companions to continue onward once we found the priest. To my humble joy and pride, none have turned away. I can’t leave Father Patrick to face the evils in Detroit alone, not after failing to protect his church. But to have these people – these odd, but good people – with us, bolsters my faith. Whatever this Joshua creature may be, at least some are willing fight his horrors.
As Moses encouraged the Israelites in the wilderness, I must hold fast. Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Some of my companions decided they wanted to follow the dead man. He was not moving fast, though, so we had plenty of time to search the train for anything useful. The black man showed us a weapons cache, and pretty much told us to take what we needed, so I took a rifle. It might have been careless of me, but the only body I had seen near the train was already walking again, and my impression was that those were not his weapons, but belonged to whomever the black man was working for. So I took my chances, hoping that there were no dead spirits around who would get angry because I took their belongings.
Someone, however, possibly did not appreciate the slow pace we would have to keep, were we to follow the walking dead. Impatient as usual, Rat Girl decided to settle things in her own way. Without asking anyone, she blew the walking dead up. Maybe she thought he was moving too slowly, and by destroying him, we could keep going at normal speed. Or maybe she just felt like destroying the corpse; either way, I did not disapprove. The dead should remain dead, they should not walk.
But when she blew the corpse up, it left a pattern in the snow. There is no way it was a coincidence, the pattern was too complex. And the pattern, of course, was that of the Drowned Coyotes. Except something had landed in the pattern, and made the coyote look more like a … cat? Perhaps a náshdóítsoh, the cat that walks silently among the rocks, that the humans call ‘mountain lion’.
The actions of those who called themselves the Drowned Coyotes had made them my enemies. The babbling man when we left the town had spoken about a Red Lion who would come and kill us all. And now, it seemed a cat was somehow connected to the Drowned Coyotes. Coincidence? I very much doubted that.
Later that day, we caught the stench of something burning. We were not far from the farm we had stayed on a few days earlier, when we had been attacked by the γát dìndé, the ones with the strange straw dolls. Singer Woman raced towards the farm, and some of the others joined her. I followed at a slower pace with the Chinaman and one or two of the others. Perhaps I was being overly careful, but it would have been a great opportunity for an ambush.
Nothing happened, though; we reached the farm without trouble. The farm, however, had clearly been under attack. We found one of the men who used to live there inside the house, his body torn to pieces, or smashed to pieces, perhaps. And his blood… his blood formed a by now familiar pattern of the Drowned Coyotes.
It was fairly obvious that his attackers had been the walking dead. While we did find blood spattered by the doors and windows, that blood was a lot less fresh than that of the dead farmer. Of the others who lived at the farm, we found no traces, though it was clear that more than one weapon had been fired during the fight. The obvious conclusion would be that they had been killed, and joined the ranks of the other deads.
The tracks led in the direction of the place the whites called Detroit. While I was studying the tracks, I thought I heard the sound of metal hitting stone. So I headed off in the direction of the sound to investigate, with the Chinaman and Rat Girl trailing me.
By the crater where we had found the exploding man, we found another man. He was fighting several of the walking dead. With a sword. Even as I approached, he finished off the last of them.
He was strangely dressed, with a white cloak with a red symbol on it; that of the white men’s god. We spoke briefly, and I invited him back to the farm to meet the others. Maybe it was presumptious of me, but I suspected they would like to meet this strange white man.
Back at the farm, however, it seems I had accidently stumbled across the Singer we were looking for. The Singer woman at least was happy to see him. From what he told us, he was headed towards Detroit as well, to investigate the strange occurrences in the area.
Myself, I was not entirely sure what to think of him. This was the man who had had a walking dead chained up in the basement of his place of worship. The Singer woman trusted him, but he was one of the white Singers. Our people have little cause to love or trust the white Singers with their sacrificed god. True, he had been fighting the dead, and was, it seemed, as interested in finding out what was going on as the rest of us. And Rat Girl, well, she kept watching him adoringly. Still.
And then there was his sword. That was, perhaps, the most terrifying thing about him. In the hilt of his sword, he had a human fingerbone. Maybe it is some sort of white man’s magic. But to me, it seemed like the way of a ’ánt’įįhnii, a witch. Why would anyone else put a piece of a dead body in their weapon?
But I was already travelling with people I would normally have stayed far away from, and I had not turned back when, or so I believed, Coyote had crossed my path. Perhaps it is true, what they believe, the Chisi, that He sometimes aids those who need it. He works in the shadows, hidden. And He always has more than one reason for what he is doing. But maybe sometimes He can be helpful.
As for the Singer, he too was after the Whisperer and the Drowned Coyotes, it seemed. That was why, or at least one of the reasons why, I decided, against my better judgement, to go with them. Besides, I was still looking for my she’aszdáán, and the trail of those who took her led to the same place he was headed.
The next day, we continued on to Detroit. The closer we came, the more disturbing the surroundings grew. It felt as if someone, or something, evil was creeping up on me in the middle of the night. The sun did nothing to warm us; it was shining, but it was as if a haze was between it and us. The entire time, it felt as if things were watching us, just waiting for a good time to attack. The shadows cast by the sun seemed to stretch after us as we rode past.
When we finally got to our destination, the town looked deserted as we arrived at the stream just at the border of the town.