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Dawn of Darkness; Episode 5: Who do Voodoo:

"Howdy there folks, sorry for taking so long since last getting word out to you. It's been hell here the conditions are deteriorating rapidly there's hordes of undead at the town's walls and we have to fight daily to keep their numbers down, but I will try to keep you informed as long as I can. In this segment we find our hero Pathfinder recently joined by an aged preacher man with a knack for a knock, and a gunslinger in his prime but strangely afflicted as they commence their next adventure, who knows what strange sights or terrible tragedy awaits these daring souls. If you missed last weeks episode you can catch up on what you missed by tuning into Shadows of Brimstone: The Preacher and The Gunslinger. However, if you're all caught up then enjoy."

Upon arriving at the house of the widow to return her departed's lost journal the trio of adventurers discover a household in a strange state. The staff that were responsible for the upkeep of the house were silently going about their duties none making any sound more then the shuffle of feet on the floors. As the group came to the front doors they found them standing open.
The preacher called outwards

"Miss Calloway are you home?" the preacher called into the front room of the large house.

From beside the group a tall lanky man servant appeared and informed them that Miss Calloway was in seclusion and had requested not to be disturbed. Nodding his head in understanding the preacher told the servant that he didn't need to see the "poor woman" but that he was only here to provide her late husband's personal effect and entrusting the journal to the servant the preacher got the mans assurances that he would deliver it to the newly made widow. As the group turned to leave the front step however. The servant came rushing back out the door after them and with him he carried an oddly greenish jar that seemed to contain some sort of flowing liquid inside. When he caught the group he looked nervous as he explained quickly that later the previous day a woman had come by the house and had been with Miss Calloway for the entire afternoon and during that time the woman had convinced Miss Calloway that the death of her husband had not been innocent and that a foul curse had been placed upon her family by a third party. The woman then proceeded to perform what she deemed a proper cleansing of the curse and had produced that very jar filled with a strange liquid substance saying to Miss Calloway that she must find the grave of the person who had last lived in her house before her and bury the jar in that person's grave for their body would act as a conduit for the curse removing it from the house and trapping it within that grave, where it would dissipate in time. So the servant explained that if the three who had been responsible for discovering a lost item might also be able to travel to the local graveyard and bury a small item there and that they would surely be rewarded well for their efforts upon their return.

The lure of a reward to be named later had already caught John's ears and the preacher had no qualms with doing this strange task though he would be sure to visit Miss Calloway very soon to remind her that there was no such thing as sorcery and that the only power in this world came from god himself. He wouldn't have a member of his flock be led astray by satanic illusion. Pathfinder also assented to carrying out this task though he seemed wary of the jar and refused to put it in his bags, shrugging John tossed the jar into his bag finding it only added a minor increase to the weight. Now with a new goal the group, resupplied on food stuffs and things for the trip in town and fresh from a nights rest set out to perform this easy task.

After several days traveling through the canyons and desert-like regions that surrounded the town, the trio of adventurers finally entered the area that the town had chosen to use as a graveyard though due to necessity the area had been expanded to be able to contain all the newer additions that had moved in. The gates to the area were hanging slightly ajar a gentle breeze making the left door squeaking every now and then. As the group crossed into the entrance john checked his pistols a nervous habit that had kept him alive more times than he had cared to count, the preacher crossed himself, while Pathfinder scouted ahead peering into the dark shadows that lay behind the tomb stones scattered haphazardly throughout the area and the shadowy areas next to the bigger mausoleums that housed an entire families dead. Surprisingly there was not a strong odor in the graveyard even though there were so many graves because the place was built upon a higher rolling hills environment so a constant medium breeze swept and lingering smells away before they could settle. The ground underfoot was a bit spongy adding a bit of cushion as the group advanced forward checking the roughly drawn map that the servant had provided them showing the general location of the grave that was their target.

The group was about half-way down the side of the second hill when a deep moaning noise filled the air, the three quickly took up a defensive position uncertain what was about to befall them. The moans grew louder as all around the group the ground by grave markers was disturbed and up from the sodden earth climbed creatures foul to the eye. Being birthed from holes filled with all manner of insects and worm-like masses, rose a horde of undead zombies their eyes staring blankly as they turned upon the three fresh humans in their unholy domain. Not waiting to become the next item on the menu, John Holliday was already firing his pistol with effect into the crowd of approaching figures aiming for head shots he had already taken down at least four the round slugs from his gun causing wet popping noises as they impacted the rotten flesh of the zombies heads, collapsing their skulls inward and spraying a green mist behind them onto the other undead coming up behind. He fired quickly reloading as fast as he could his ammunition supply running out at a steady rate. Meanwhile Pathfinder was working up a sweat as at first he fired off his rifle several times aiming to slow down the bigger bloated zombies, some of which when struck in the guts with a shot would explode outwards only to have smaller tentacles erupt from their innards these commencing crawling towards the desperate fighters.

The preacher through this all did his best to remain calm and several times was able to crack a zombie in the face with his thick-bound bible, narrowly avoiding the grasping arms with flesh sagging off the bones making them slick with oozing flesh. These were the newer corpses the older were dried out their clothes nothing but stiff scraps of cloth that had yet to disintegrate with time. John threw a stick of lit dynamite into the midst of a group and the mindless animated corpses turned and attacked it with a terrifying zeal. However they weren't able to comprehend it wasn't flesh to consume and when one of the zombies grabbed hold of the stick the fuse ran out and the stick exploded in a violent blast vaporizing several of their number and shredding many more as flying body parts impacted those near the edge of the fireball that rose up quickly into the sky. This allowed the group a brief reprieve from the unceasing waves of undead that had suddenly sprung up on them which they used to retreat looking for a better location to defend. On the way John ran a quick tally of remaining rounds Pathfinder had exhausted the bullets for his rifle having not brought that many along and of course the preacher didn't even own a gun. John, himself was down to half a dozen more rounds as well as a few custom shots that he had made for a rainy day.
The group was turning a corner moving quickly away from the zombies, the preacher in the lead when a clawed insect about four feet tall took a swipe at him with a serrated claw-like appendage. Catching the old man totally off-guard the claw sliced deeply into the front of the mans chest causing blood to pour down the front of his robe as he fell to the ground. Two more of the insect-like creatures followed closely behind the lead one as they all came around the corner of the crypt. John pumped round after round at the creature's bullet's ricocheting off their hides, shining black plates covered the vital organs of the creatures with large black spines growing form their backs, the bullets were just being redirected off and away with high pitched whines, two bullets hit at a good angle and were able to punch through softer areas in the armored plates. black blood flowing out of the holes left behind. The insect in front of the pack raised its limbs and chittering loudly, it's mandibles clicking together it charged the two men still standing. John was just able to get out of harm's way but as the creature passed by its bladed arm snagged his travel bag and ripped across it unfortunately this caused the jar of liquid that was inside his bag to rupture slowly draining it's contents out the rip and down john's gun arm even onto his pistol. Giving his gun hand a quick shake to clear the liquid out of the firing mechanism John proceeded to put three rounds square through the eyes of the large insect, it shuddered and then fell on its side going through spastic motions as it’s brain continued to fire off random messages that its body was no longer able to carry out. As he turned however it was just to witness a serrated limb arcing towards him as one of the two remaining insects had closed the distance while he had been putting down the creature that had charged at him. He didn't have time to react and knew this was where he met his end, in this god forsaken graveyard doomed to be just another shambling undead abomination. He closed his eyes hoping it will at least be a quick death. In the background Pathfinder was trying to draw the third insect away from the fallen preacher successfully distracting it and now trying to figure out what to do next.

While Pathfinder was distracted and the two insects focused on their soon to be main courses, and John about to finally meet his maker, where they would exchange a few choice words no doubt. No one noticed as another figure sped into the melee, she had been watching the group as they had neared the graveyard and was shocked when the group entered, didn't they know what was waiting for them beyond those gates. Keeping out of sight she decided to follow them to see what reason had led them to this place. The native led the way checking out the way ahead thoroughly, though he didn't check the back trail having no suspicion that he needed to, other than the older man in the black robe who was clutching a black bound book in his hand as if it would protect him from unseen dangers, the only other person in the group had a demeanor around him that spoke volumes. His jacket had been moved to make his holster clear and easy to draw his gun at a moment's notice and he had a way of walking that ensured it would remain so his hand on the pistols grip while he watched the native for signs that they had company. It was shortly after the group had encountered the unending mass of undead that had been thriving in the graveyard for quite some time now that the woman used their headlong retreat to her advantage using the assorted tombstones and crypts to keep herself hidden from their eyes and the zombies were unaware she had been there at all even though there were a few close calls as she rushed to circle ahead of the group.

It was during the surprise attack by the bug-like creatures that she witnessed the robed old man get knocked to the ground, unmoving. The blade of the insect that had surprised him, flicking blood in a line on the wall behind. Turns out there were three of the bugs in a pack and they seemed to be as agitated as the two interlopers had chanced upon them. As the lead bug charged towards the gunslinger, him looking strangely calm about the whole ordeal. She picked up the pace, coming in just as the bugs bladed forearm was inches from the man’s head, throwing up her cavalry saber in an upward chopping motion she knocked the limb off course enough that the mans hat was the only thing caught with the blow, it rolled to the ground coming to a stop with a tear through it.

“I loved that hat,” John said to himself, as he felt it come off his head and having quickly checked his surroundings right after that finding a woman in front of him attacking the bug beast that had been about to become his executioner, his hat lying on the mine floor behind him a large ragged tear through the item.

“Guess another time then.” John remarked under his breath, before checking his gun and reloading it quickly to get back into the fight.

Pathfinder was able to outmaneuver the bug that had become focused on him. He had warded off several swipes with those sharp pincer like arms but his rifle wasn’t making a good shield. Another frenzy of attacks this hes barely able to maintain a block and then hes knocked to the ground his rifle keeping the bug from devouring him.As the bug falls down on him two arms though smaller in overall size they are sharply bladed as the main weapons of the creature, these fold out from the underside and flick out trying to puncture the natives flesh and dose him with some sort of foul venom or toxic substance perhaps. John, having finished reloading watches Pathfinder fall under the bug, but his attention is focused mainly on the woman fighting the insect that had almost killed him, there were several remarkable things he noticed right off the bat, the woman was stronger than she appeared though clad in what one would say was attire only fit for a saloon, she had a quickness that allowed her to stay ahead of the insect and keep him occupied, she moved around in an odd way but it wasn’t until she had come out to the side far enough to be in line of sight from the bug between John and the woman, that John saw why that was.

The woman had a tail and using it she was using able to move more quickly over ground, she was moving awkwardly but was able to keep away from the bugs attacks. At that point, time stretched, seeming to make each second last for much longer, “Doc” strafed quickly four paces to the right giving him a clear shot of the bug ahead that was engaging the mystery woman, his gun arm tracking the movement of his target automatically. The round hit the creature in the back of the left lower limb, the impact piercing through the flesh and taking out one of the joints in its leg. The creature screeched, its leg unable to support its weight, fell to one knee, allowing the woman to then circle around looking for weaknesses in its defense that she could exploit.

“Doc” then turned his attention towards the insect that was currently attempting to fillet Pathfinder. There was very little visible movement from Doc’s viewpoint, cycling his pistol over three chambers, he braced himself quickly aiming triggering off two explosive blasts that made his ears ring for several minutes afterward.

The sound distracted the wounded bug that was still trying to take out its intense anger out on the woman evading its attacks. It flinched away from the source of the sound as a reaction and taking advantage of this the woman ducked in close to deliver an upwards knee strike that connected with a jarring crunch sound. The bug fell on its back, temporarily dazed by the blow, before it could recover in anyway however the woman stepped up and fired her small pistol several times in rapid succession into the prone creature’s face, it’s movements slowed till it kicked a leg once more then grew still.

The first shot Doc fired at the bug attacking Pathfinder leaping from his gun like a stallion in a race, a hellish scream emitted from the high speed projectile as it sped across the distance to it’s target. The bug that has been totally focused entirely upon getting to Pathfinder and rending his flesh, takes the first impact in the side the round punching a large hole in the armor and devastating internal organs before exploding out the other side into the wall of the mine tunnel, leaving behind a massive exit wound where one could clearly see some of the insects torn and shredded innards spilling out from the hole .

Immediately after the first pain goes through the creatures system, the creature suffers a second impact this one hitting lower down just above and a bit back of where its thighs would be if it were a human, again the solid impact drill a hole through the armor and out the other side clean through the creature as if it weren’t even there, drawing a spattered line of drips in the dirt on the mine floor tracing the travel path of the bullet as it exits the creature and penetrates into the surface of the mines wall.

The creature shudders its eyes growing dim, before it seems to regain vigor and in a final act of pure hatred it attempts to finish off its catch. Pathfinder had been struggling for awhile his arms straining to maintain a safe distance between himself and the bug creature above him, his rifle barrel had several scratches in the metal form the sharp edges of the insects appendages and the stock had been gouged several times as well. When the shots fired by John hit the creature it had been pushed to the opposite side of the impact enough to alter its weight allowing Pathfinder to take advantage of the brief release of pressure to turn his shoulder from the ground and using his one foot hooking the lower outside limb of the creature to the ground he was able to flip it onto its back, it struggled in surprise at finding itself now on the ground with its food above it. Keeping the creatures upper limbs and those nasty middle appendages pinned down with his forearm and body weight Pathfinder reached down and removing his hunting knife from its sheath looked unblinkingly into the eyes of his would be killer before slamming the blade of his weapon into the base of its skull and up into its brain. The bug writhed for a second then with a gravely gurgling it met its end.

John blinked finding himself in the midst of bodies yet again, this time though thankfully they weren’t human. Pathfinder had struggled out from the bug with the help of the unknown woman who had saved his life, well prolonged it anyway. The three of them briefly acknowledging each others presence their attention turned quickly to the fallen preacher, hurrying over to check how severe the injury he had sustained earlier was. Pathfinder squatted down beside the preacher. John following suit before removing his travel bag to produce some bandages he had thought to bring along. The mystery woman was on the edge of the group turned outwards keeping an eye on their surroundings while the two focused on doing what they could in the current situation to save the old man’s life before it bled away.

The wound was bad, the cloth of the man's robe had been sliced cleanly providing absolutely no protection from the attack but with the serrated aspect of the bug's clawed arm it had torn raggedly across making the wound even more grievous than it would have been, the preacher's breathing was labored and he seemed to be going in shock, mumbling things that didn’t make complete sentences. It was as John took his bag off his bag and was going through it that he noticed the tear in the side of his bag and the smashed jar inside fragments of its glass all inside his bag and the liquid spilling out upon the ground where it was quickly absorbed into the ground.

"Damn it!" John cursed loudly dumping the contents of his bag on the ground, upon doing so green liquid drops flew from the bag landing on the preachers face and Pathfinders bared shoulder, unnoticed by anyone the liquid was quickly absorbed into their skin. Pathfinder turned inquiring what was the problem and John told him that the jar of liquid had been destroyed and so their quest was most definitely not gonna be a success as the smashed jar was mostly empty now.

"Speaking of problems," Pathfinder said. "Our friends are coming back. Think you can hold them off until he’s ready to move?" returning to dressing the grievous wounds of the preacher who had just recently come awake to feel the burning agony of the slice across his rib cage groaning and reaching into his robes to pull out a small flask from an inside pocket from which he drew a moderate swig, his features steadying as the alcohol worked to subdue the harsh edge of the pain he currently was experiencing.

John turned to look in the direction Pathfinder had motioned to see many undead coming up the hill towards them. Striding over to the woman who nodded in his direction, having noticed the shambling horde coming towards them and preparing herself for the upcoming encounter checking her ammo pouch and reloading her small hold-out pistol, John drew a bead on the closest undead creature which was missing a leg so it pulled itself along with its arms. He aimed and fired his larger pistol taking the top of the zombies head clean off, the body laying down limply as if the zombie had just given up and decided to take a nap.

"Nice shot," The woman remarked to the gunslinger. Oddly she had not turned to face the gunslinger when he approached instead remaining turned away facing the slowly marching army of undead. But John didn't hear her. He was still standing beside her, his arm outstretched in the direction of the zombie he had just dispatched. John didn't know what he was looking at, his hand was weird the flesh having seemed to grown over his gun but also it looked like parts of the gun had also melded into his hand to the point where the two were indistinguishable from each other. The chamber cylinder was still able to be removed so he could reload the gun but other then that his hand was now next to useless. I loved that gun, John thought to himself as his brain tried to figure out what had happened.

When John turned back to the group Pathfinder was kneeling over the preacher still, he had retrieved the bandages that had come out of John's bag when he had upturned it and was in the process of applying a balm that would at least seal the wound for the most part and then laying the bandages over the salve to prevent infection from getting in. All while the preacher grimaced occasionally taking another draw from the flask in his hand. It was when the old man went to take another sip when the mouth of the flask impacted solid flesh where his mouth should have been that the preachers eyes grew wide his hand immediately shot up to his face exploring the space that his mouth had been just moments ago finding that it was gone replaced by smooth flesh. In a panic his fingernails dug into the offending growth but the pain he experienced informed him that it wasn’t a mirage it was indeed his own flesh. At the squirming of the preacher on the ground pathfinder having just finished securing the bandages looked up to see the preacher in hysterics his face having lost the hole where his mouth had been. He stood up quickly moving back a few feet unsure of what was occurring but not wanting to to catch anything himself if this was something that could be spread. It was then he felt an odd tingling sensation, it began behind his left shoulder but spread quickly down his arm and rapidly his entire body felt like it was being punctured by red hot needles, he fell to his knees his hands going up to his head in an attempt to shut out the pain, his skin turning an oddly bluish-green hue.

All this transpired in a rather short time while John witnessed the odd transformations of the preacher and native man in front of him and still trying to understand what was happening to them. The woman beside him grabbed his arm shaking him out of his stupor and yelling at him that they need to move now, she moved quickly grabbing the preacher who had become quite mad at this point and using her tail to help hold his weight hefted him onto his feet and with him leaning heavily on her.

She looked quickly at Pathfinder yelling “Come On!” before starting to head towards the nearby wall of the graveyards border.

Pushing past the feeling of pincer’s digging into his flesh. Pathfinder got up from the fetid ground and quickly shouldering his travel bag stuff the extra supplies he could gather from John’s torn pack, he followed closely behind the woman with John taking up the rear of the group occasionally firing off into the crowd of rotting corpses unceasingly coming after them.

At the wall the woman gathered her strength and with a great effort was able to leap up and over the obstacle, just clearing the waist high barrier with the preacher clinging tightly while he had his eyes tightly closed as if he could shut out the horrifying sights he had witnessed. The two landed awkwardly on the other side of the wall losing balance with the burden of the preacher, they both found themselves sliding down the grassy embankment that separated the graveyard boundary wall and the nearby road. As they were tumbling down the steep incline, Pathfinder and John made it to the wall and with Pathfinder in the lead he was able to scale the wall quickly and reaching the top he turned to offer a helping hand to the gunslinger seeing that with the one deformed hand that looked like a balled up fist that ended with a gun barrel it was gonna be impossible for the gunslinger to climb the wall without aid. Getting on his knees Pathfinder reached his arm down, John grabbed hold of the native’s forearm, instantly his hand felt like it was on fire and the pain made him release his hold looking at his one good hand he saw the flesh was red and blotchy, the redness fading slowly. Looking up at Pathfinder and then along the left and right of the wall, John shrugged off his travel coat freeing up his second holster and after nodding to the native atop the wall he turned and advanced back into the maze of tombs and gravestones.

Pathfinder watched the gunslinger until he disappeared from sight, the moans from the zombies being carried on the wind picking up in volume followed shortly by the resounding echo of shots being fired in the distance. Knowing that John had made his choice and there was nothing Pathfinder could do for him now he turned and quickly climbed down the other side of the stone wall.

Tune in next week for more adventures in . . .

Shadows Of Brimstone: A Night of Terror
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