Dead Reign

Season 2, Episode 1

After a harsh winter that claimed the lives of several inhabitants of Mount Weather, the old gang has gotten back together—minus Doris, who just wants some time to herself to figure out the changes she’s going through. Conrad is laid up with a stomach bug.

Now that the roads are clear enough to drive on, the Manhattan survivor leaders—Rasheed, Governor Byrne, Brad, and Rosalie—are asked to go scouting in the nearby cities for a new source of medicine, information on what’s been going on since the Fall, and any potential farming opportunities so that Mount Weather can start growing its own food again. They decide to head to Washington DC, despite it being a major metropolitan hub and a likely location for hordes of zombies.

They stop along the way at Wolf Trap Farm, hoping to scavenge some goodies. They find living horses and a dead girl who apparently used to love them, as well as a large zombie wedding party. They make quick work of the zombies and stay the night at the farm without incident. The next day, they make their slow way into the former US capital, which is clogged with traffic for miles around.

They scout the area and find tons of zombies, then park in an underground garage and make their way into the Hotel Monaco to set up shop. They use the electrical tunnels and sewers under the area to navigate to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where they begin looting spare parts and components by the score. Unfortunately, they also alert the zombies in the museum to their presence. The episode ends with them preparing to defend their haul.

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Day 21
Meetings and Confrontations

Highlights Reel:

  • Met with “Senator” Clark.
  • Consulted with the ravens of Mount Weather.
  • Encountered Brother Wendigo and refused his offer of help gracefully.
  • Traveled to Frackville to meet with the Red King.
  • Governor Byrne damn near had a stroke.
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Day 20
Airlifts and Evacuations

Everyone got out, even the ones the heroes didn’t want to get out. More later.

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Day 19
Dangerous Reactions

Getting a little behind, I know…

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Day 18
The Cavalry

More to come

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Day 17
Horrors Below

And then Dr. Rhodes was a vampire.

More to come.

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Day 16
The Dark Beneath

The heroes found they way to the hidden entrance to the Mount Weather vault, discovering that Dr. Lee’s instructions had been correct. The normally-locked exterior airlock had been left in cycle mode, allowing the heroes to bypass the usual security measures and enter what seemed to be an enormous loading dock. They quickly discovered a huge “parking garage,” a cavern filled with vehicles that looked as though they had belonged to the survivors that had come into the vault months ago. They also found some electric carts that would make exploring the vault a bit easier.

Their initial explorations revealed no survivors—no sign of life at all. A side trip toward the Administration wing saw them finding signs, but not of life. Behind a locked door of bulletproof glass, pitted and scored with violence, they saw an empty situation room, the monitors and furniture streaked with dried blood and gore. Something terrible had happened here, but it was long since over.

Unwilling to open the doors and possibly let out whatever was in that wing, they backtracked to the Medical wing, hoping to find Dr. Lee or other survivors. The entrance to the Medical wing was equally locked, but Rosalie proved able to open it in a fairly simple procedure. The interior looked like a pleasant hospital setting, complete with bubbling fountains and artificial sunlight—but again, no people at all. Remembering that Dr. Lee had talked about putting himself in isolation, they made their way toward the isolation suite.

Another locked door stood in their way, but before Rosalie could get to it, the lights in the corridor behind them began to flicker off, one by one. Conrad put on his nightvision goggles—and suddenly wished he hadn’t, because the hallway was full of awful things, barely human-shaped any longer, crawling toward them. Suddenly, Rosalie needed to get the door open as fast as possible, before the darkness and the monsters were on top of them. Working hurriedly, with Rasheed using his powers to buy a little more time, she managed to open the door into a long hallway filled with gas dispensers, letting it close and lock behind them to keep out the creatures.

Though the heroes worried about being gassed in the “kill corridor,” they made it out the other side safely into a series of rooms that led toward the isolation ward. A decontamination chamber blocked they way, but they quickly figured out how to fool the automated systems in it, only to leave the chamber and come face to face with a hazmat-suited man leveling a machine gun at them. Conrad tried to talk him down, but wound up having to disarm him before he would listen to reason.

The man took them back to his comrades, a group of interns and residents working with the CDC before everything went to hell. They had been trapped in the isolation ward for over a week, ever since the alarms went off and everything locked down without warning. The lockdown had ended a couple of days before, but none of them had been brave enough to venture back out to see what was going on. They had decided to wait it out and see it anyone came looking for them. The gun had been taken from a soldier who was trapped with them, but who had turned out to be infected; when he started turning, they threw him into the isolation chamber and locked him in.

Several of the scientists were in complete denial about the “zombie” thing, while others were more prepared to listen to what the heroes had to say about the matter. They revealed that they had Dr. Lee’s research into the virus, including an experimental anti-viral that seemed to slow the infection rate enough that a person could sometimes fight the virus off—but not always.

The most interesting thing to Rasheed was the three-dimensional molecular model of the virus they had generated. The pieces of the virus looked like words to him—a visual representation of the glossolalia he used when he did his “magic.” Indeed, the shapes reminded him of cuneiform in the same way that a cube can remind a person of a square. He asked for a chance to use their synthesizer and began inputting his mental models of his “spells” into the analyzer as rendered shapes.

Several times, he found himself falling into a strange fugue state, at the end of which, messages would be spelled out on the screen—messages he didn’t remember writing, which begged him to stop what he was doing. Rasheed fought the terror that built up within him to push through to the end, finally creating a molecular model of… something new. The scientists were stunned at its complexity and elegance. They had no idea what it would do, but he asked them to start using the synthesizer to create a sample of it.

While they were waiting, the scientists offered to do blood tests of each of the survivors, since they had managed to come up with a fairly reliable, quick method of testing for the infection. While Conrad, Governor Byrne, and Brad were all clean, they noted a genetic abnormality in Rasheed that gave them cause for concern and were saddened to inform Doris that she was infected. Strangely, her infection didn’t seem to be progressing, and they were interested in doing some more tests.

They were far more interested in Rosalie, however, since she seemed to be the first immune case they had discovered! After taking a significant amount of her blood and pushing for more invasive tests, Conrad put his foot down and made them back off. He was concerned that this revelation, while it was good news in some ways, would cause Rosalie to become a point of contention.

The first sample of Rasheed’s experiment took almost five hours to create. While they were debating about what to do with it—and whether it was a cure or a weapon—the room began to shake. Before they could respond, the doors to the isolation chamber blew off, a chunk of the lab wall tore open, and a huge monstrosity with three faces, seeming to be a melted amalgam of many bodies, stood before them—along with several dozen zombies!

A pitched battle ensued, with the heroes holding the line to keep the scientists safely behind them. As they scrambled to keep the abomination back, the wall behind them exploded as well—revealing soldiers! The armored men streamed into the room, stunned to find survivors, and quickly defaulted to taking orders from Conrad. They opened fire into the mass of bodies, but the abomination seemed unharmed, no matter how many shots they put into it.

Doris, unwilling to lose their sample in the gunfight and convinced that it was a cure for her deteriorating condition, did the unthinkable. She slammed the liquid into an injector gun and shot it directly into her neck! She collapsed, blood pouring from her eyes and nose as seizures wracked her body. Rosalie couldn’t get any response from her and ran to hide amidst the rubble, convinced that her only real friend was going to die.

Doris had a strange vision as her body writhed on the floor. She stood on the shores of a great red ocean, the copper-scented waves lapping at her feet over a beach of white sand. Out from her was a black island, covered in brownish stains and circled by wheeling carrion birds. As she stared at it, vaguely aware of the agony shooting through her body in the real world, she realized that it wasn’t an island at all but rather the head of an immense stone statue. In horror, she watched the statue’s eye open—and look at her.

Then she was awake again, gasping for breath and feeling like herself for the first time in weeks. The horrible brand on her arm had faded to a nasty bruise and a clean scar, and the ravenous hunger within her had quieted. Somehow, Rasheed’s “cure” had allowed her to master the wendigo!

Doris rejoined the battle, which was going poorly. Zombies spilled forward, stumbling over their own fallen dead, as the air filled with acrid smoke. Wild shotgun blasts from Rasheed, Brad, and Doris staggered the great beast somewhat, but it wasn’t until Governor Byrne rushed it and shoved his shotgun’s barrel right into the thing’s mouth that they were able to bring it down.

While the other zombies screamed and moaned at the destruction of their vanguard, Rasheed laid down a barrier of sand and bloody earth to hold back the remaining dead while the soldiers picked them off. From there, it was just a matter of cleanup.

As things died down, Conrad realized that the men who had come to their aid were not soldiers at all, but rather mercenaries in the employ of something they called Project: Genesis. Their squad leader seemed to have a great deal of respect for an actual Navy Seal, especially one that didn’t look down on a “mere” merc, and the two of them got to talking.

One of the scientists blabbed that Rosalie was immune, and the squad leader informed Conrad that trouble might ensue once they got back to their own wing of the complex. They had come down here looking for data on the virus and hadn’t been expecting survivors at all, but they had standing orders to bring back anyone they found anywhere to their leader, Dr. Alyssa Rhodes. She could be a little “intense” and had an open interest in finding an immune case, something she had apparently posited as being possible.

Conrad wasn’t excited about the idea of going with the mercs back into the proverbial lion’s den, but they realized that the only way to ensure the safety of the synthesizer was with their help. In exchange for men staying to guard the synthesizer, they willingly went back to the Project: Genesis ward of the Medical wing.

Upon arrival, they came face to face with the stern and methodical Dr. Alyssa Rhodes, a middle aged woman who looked at them like lab specimens instead of people. When she heard that Rosalie was immune, she ordered the girl taken to an isolation chamber. Conrad began to object, but Dr. Rhodes insisted—and further ordered that anyone who got in the way would be shot. Governor Byrne and Rasheed managed to defuse the situation somewhat, especially when Rasheed mentioned that he might have created something close to a cure, but Dr. Rhodes would only give way in that she permitted the other heroes to take up an adjoining room.

Somewhat discomfited by their “warm welcome,” but trying to buy time until the synthesizer could produce more of Rasheed’s formula, the heroes allowed themselves to be taken into protective custody…

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Day 15
The Vault

After a lengthy debate, the heroes finally decided to make for one of the abandoned military bases in southern Pennsylvania, hoping to find weapons and support vehicles that would give them an advantage against the horde outside Allentown. A short battle against the zombies swarming near the vehicles almost turned dangerous when one of the walkers turned out to be a runner, faster and smarter than his brethren. Fortunately, quick thinking and quicker gunplay saved the day.

The road was dangerous as well, with a half-dozen Horsemen motorcycle springing from ambush a couple of hours outside of Allentown. Between Doris’ driving and Conrad’s machine gun, the Horsemen were driven off the road, and the heroes managed to escape before they could rally their vehicles.

Unfortunately, after several hours of driving, the military base outside Harrisburg—indeed, the whole city of Harrisburg—was found to be under the control of the Horsemen. The heroes were upset to have come so far for nothing, They stuck around for a bit to spy on the Horsemen from their humvee, but a patrol noticed them and sent out a rider on a motorcycle to meet with them. While they debated the best course of action, Conrad decided to take matters into his own hands and gun down the rider before he could reach the humvee.

This created a massive protest from the other heroes, especially Doris and Governor Byrne, and forced the group to retreat before the now-riled Horsemen could mount a genuine offensive. Once they had satisfied themselves that they weren’t being followed, the group asked Conrad to step off while they discussed his future. While the former SEAL wasn’t asked to leave, the others did strongly caution him about the future use of lethal force; both sides agreed to attempt better communication in the future, and matters were settled.

Rather than turn back to Allentown, the group agreed to continue on to Mount Weather while the weather was still clear. The drive was several more hours, mostly on back roads and through ever-rockier terrain, until they finally came to the first security gate. Rosalie volunteered to infiltrate the area and open the gate from the other side; she ran into a single zombie on the way, but neatly decapitated it without a problem. The gatehouse turned out to still have power, which the heroes took as something of a good sign; the fact that it seemed abandoned kept them from hoping too much.

Several more gates and security checks later, they finally found evidence that someone was still alive inside the base. Conrad showed off his unit patch to the security cameras, and the gates started opening on their own from then on. After several miles of driving, the group found themselves outside the main gates of the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center. As they waited, they saw a military cart driving up with a single person aboard—a figure in a hazmat suit.

The figure wouldn’t approach too close to the gate, out of a stated concern about the heroes having the plague, but was at least curious about their intentions. The hazmat-suited individual introduced herself as Corporal Riley; she was a military clerk who drew the short straw on staying aboveground when the emergency bunker had been sealed a month or so back. The base’s communications systems had been down ever since the evacuation, and no one had managed to get them back online before the bunker was sealed, so she had been completely out of contact with both the outside world and the underground survivors for weeks.

The group had to explain to her the extent of the damage that had been done to the world, as well as the existence of zombies, which Corporal Riley took better than expected. She invited them in and took off the hazmat suit, after deciding that wearing it was probably pointless. She was able to tell them that Mount Weather still had power—and probably would for another 30 to 50 years because of the experimental geothermal tap—and that the base personnel had left her enough food to survive for five to ten years on her own. There were also vehicles—but only personnel and medical transports, nothing armed or heavily armored.

The heroes started formulating a plan to use the med-evac helicopters to transport all of the Allentown survivors to Mount Weather, but they realized that first they had to determine the survival of the people in the bunker below. Corporal Riley didn’t have any way to open the bunker or to communicate, so they decided to check out the communication systems first.

In the main comms center, they found a music CD playing on loop; taking it out of the player, they discovered that it also contained a video message from one of the base doctors. He warned that proper quarantine protocols hadn’t been taken for the high-profile government personnel that were being taken into the bunker, and he worried that the plague might well follow them in. He had included instructions for how to open a secondary entrance to the bunker, in the hopes that any survivors who found his message would be able to salvage his research even if something happened to everyone inside.

Now certain that the only thing that waited for them below was death, the heroes made preparations to open the bunker, infiltrate, and find the government’s research data on the zombie plague. If the world’s best minds had come up with any answers in the last month, it was a risk worth taking…

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Day 14
Breaking Bad

Following the trail of spilled oil from the attack site led the heroes to a small dirt road leading off the highway. Rosalie and Conrad’s keen eyes noticed disturbed dirt in the middle of the path, and a quick inspection turned up an improvised explosive device whose components Rasheed recognized as standard operating procedure for the IRA. A length of piano wire strung at neck-height in some nearby trees reinforced the idea that someone didn’t want to be followed.

The group disarmed the IED and took their humvee into the woods, slow and steady. Eventually, the dirt road intersected a small trail, which in turn emptied onto a worn-down country road that ended at a fence and gate. The gate was tripwired to an early-warning device that Rosalie disarmed. The group then continued on foot, soon noticing an acrid stink in the air that Governor Byrne recognized from his days as a police officer: the smell of cooking methamphetamines.

They stalked through the cold underbrush, arriving at a car graveyard, filled with junked automobiles, laid out behind a crumbling old country house. Nearby, a trailer gave off vapors and gases as meth was being made within. As they watched, a red-haired man came out of the trailer; before Conrad could take him out with a quick sniper shot, a young boy with a dog came around the house to hug him.

The heroes could make out some of the dialogue at a distance, and they realized that the killers were a family who had survived together through the apocalypse by preying on other survivors. Governor Byrne decided to approach the man openly while the others remained hidden. A tense dialogue ensued, with the man giving his name as Alec Connelly and demanding that Governor Byrne get off his property. Alec told his son to go back into the house, and Conrad soon saw another gun poke out of an upper-story window to take a bead on the governor.

The standoff lasted until Alec’s patience ran out, then a gunfight ensued. The barely-seen sniper took a shot at the governor, but was dropped by Conrad in turn. The governor grappled with Alec, and Doris ran to the house, only to be laid low by a shotgun blast from a teenaged boy. Doris laid there, struggling against both the pain and the emerging beast within her until Rasheed snuck up on the boy and disarmed him. The younger son came out of hiding, blasting with a pistol, only to be dropped in his tracks by Rosalie and her stungun.

Inside the house, Brad was coming to help Rasheed, but was somewhat stunned by the vast amount of supplies within. Fortunately, he wasn’t distracted enough to avoid seeing a teenage girl with a rifle coming up behind Rasheed. Brad disarmed her, only to find himself being pushed back by an insane unarmed assault. He lost his patience and clubbed her unconscious with the rifle butt, just as Rasheed was heading upstairs. Governor Byrne took out Alec and the dog, then came to help the recovering Doris bring down the oldest boy.

Upstairs, Rasheed found a woman laying dead with a bullet in her skull. He mourned the loss of life—until he realized that he couldn’t hear her in the Deadspeak. She wasn’t dead yet! He laid hands on her and called on his hoodoo powers to restore her, only to have her attack him as soon as she woke up. She fought like a wildcat, sure that the intruders were there to steal her family’s supplies, rape her and her daughter, and then kill them all.

Governor Byrne came upstairs to explain the truth of the matter: that they were scouts for a survivor community and were just following up on finding a group of dead travelers. The woman, Miranda Connelly, admitted to killing the travelers for their supplies, but she insisted that anyone would have done the same in her shoes. Governor Byrne retorted that others had made different, better choices—and Miranda coldly told him that she had seen those “better” choices end up with whole families dead. She would kill anyone she had to in order to keep her children alive.

As they talked, Miranda started to realize that the heroes were indeed representatives from a large community. She offered that she and her husband would submit to any punishment they wanted as long as they took her children back to safety. Rasheed was torn; on the one hand, the Connellys were killers, but on the other they were a family trying to stay together and stay alive. He went out to the unconscious Alec and used his powers to revive the man, figuring that any discussion about his fate had to include him.

Brad complained that Rasheed was using up all his hoodoo on criminals while he himself was still suffering in pain. While everyone else was occupied, Brad spent his time quietly looting the Connellys’ medical and food supplies, on account of “pain and suffering.” Doris took some basic medical treatment before going out to pacify the Connellys’ dog, a massive beast named Magnus. Ever since she had begun changing from the zombie plague, it seemed that animals were more in tune with her than ever, unlike the walking dead, who seemed to repulse them.

Conrad was somewhat relieved to not have to execute anyone on his first outing with a group he was rapidly coming to regard as dangerously idealistic. To keep himself busy, he scouted the area, finding a zombie caught up on the Connelly family fence—and more closing in behind it. Knowing that their moans and gunshots would both draw more, he opted to quickly put down all the present ones and deal with whatever came in the future.

Governor Byrne interviewed the Connellys, eventually getting out that Alec had been a teenaged gang member back in Northern Ireland during “the unpleasantness.” When the British government had reached a ceasefire agreement with the IRA in the mid-90s, Alec was going to have been handed over as part of a concession, but instead was sent to America to live with distant relatives. He drifted back into crime, eventually becoming a minor drug supplier, and married a woman with as spotty a criminal record as his own. While Alec and Miranda were criminals without a doubt, they had used all of their significant resourcefulness and ruthlessness to protect their three children—Finn, Flora, and Mitchell.

A long discussion between the governor and the Connelly family was had, at the end of which Governor Byrne decided that he couldn’t judge people for trying to survive—only for rejecting civilization when it was offered. If they came with the group to Allentown, here and now, he would officially pardon anything they had previously done in the name of survival. The only condition was that they would stop making meth; Alec agreed to burn down the trailer himself if the governor would take his children to safety.

The group decided to rest until light before making for Allentown. Rosalie and Rasheed busied themselves rebuilding one of the cars in the Connelly auto graveyard, since the hummer wouldn’t carry everyone. The Connellys packed as many supplies as possible, and watches were set. Unfortunately, well before midnight, the moaning of the walking dead became clearer. Deciding that they would rather abandon some of their supplies than risk being swarmed, everyone packed into the vehicles and got moving.

In the dark and cold, it was far too easy for the Connellys’ car to go off the road and get stuck in the mud. While everyone prepared themselves for a battle, spotlights came up in the woods! Help had arrived! As zombies were picked off by gunfire, Doris heard a familiar voice exhorting them to get back on the road and make for the highway. Their savior was none other than Mary Mathis, little sister of crazed prophet Elijah Mathis. She clearly hadn’t recognized the group, and her dialogue indicated that they had been looking for survivors in the area already when they stumbled onto the Connellys.

With the delay provided by Mary’s faithful, the survivors got the car back onto the road and took off, but not before Doris thanked Mary for her help. Suddenly realizing who she had been aiding, Mary seemed shocked and surprised, but wasn’t able to do anything about it before the heroes and their new guests took off into the night.

Back at Allentown, the Connellys were taken into the usual quarantine with no mention of their past or how they had come to be in the heroes’ care. Alec swore that he and his family would work to help their new community, but only time would tell how well that promise would be kept.

As the snow drifted in, the heroes realized that the mass of zombies around Allentown was only growing. Soon, if they didn’t take the fight to the enemy, they would be left facing a horde of unimaginable proportions, just waiting for the rivers to freeze over. Much discussion was had about the next step. Conrad started up a program to begin training Allentown’s survivors how to use their weapons and fight together, while Governor Byrne began outlining strategy to Samantha Lee and her assistants.

Some suggested making for Mount Weather to see if any remnants of the government could be found, while others thought an alliance with Mary Mathis and her faithful would be possible in the current circumstances. The idea of working with the Horsemen against the zombies was proposed, but not taken especially seriously; the Red King was simply too fearsome a figure to consider an alliance with.

Winter had come, and with it an air of desperation…

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Day 13
A Little Bird...

Conrad Warren had been tracking them a long time—weeks, it felt like.

He had managed to escape from New York by climbing through the undercarriage of the GW Bridge, but the escape had been costly. He was the only member of his SEAL team to get out of New York Presbyterian hospital when everything went to hell, and in in the process he had lost his sidearm, used up almost all of his ammo, and been left with just his fatigues and the Barrett on his back.

After getting out of the hellhole that was Manhattan, he had been picking his way west, making for open country, when he started running into other survivors. Some of them said there were people trying to help—that they wouldn’t have lived without the sudden, shocking arrival of heroes. Conrad was intrigued; anyone trying to get things back into shape was someone he wanted to team up with.

Finally, he had arrived at Allentown and been transported across the river into the Lehigh Valley. In the wake of their shocking conversation with Sofiya, the heroes were surprised to find someone who wanted to meet them and wasn’t some sort of monster. Introductions were made, and the group was happy to take in an actual trained soldier as one of their number. Conrad had missed most of the worst stuff they had seen, given his cautious nature, but he was willing to take some things on a temporary basis. Smart walkers he could believe, but magic? Who the hell knew?

Very soon, Conrad was drawn into the planning for the next stage of their mission. While Rasheed was reluctant to actually meet with the Red King, they decided that a scouting expedition wouldn’t be a bad idea. Furthermore, some discussion revealed that they had left behind thousands of rounds of rubber bullets in the armory at Locust Lake.

Conrad told them that rubber bullets could easily be refitted into real bullets, if they had some basic machinery. Allentown was wealthy in metal and machines, so a decision was made to travel back to the penitentiary and pick up the ammo. In the meantime, a second group would make their way by foot into Frackville and take a look at the enemy forces awaiting them.

The group made their way back across the river and quickly lured off the few zombies near Brad’s humvee before piling in and taking off. Rosalie, Conrad, and Rasheed formed the scouting party and were let off about 10 miles outside of Frackville, while Doris, Governor Byrne, and Brad made their way back to Locust Lake.

The women of Locust Lake were happy to see the survivors again, and Crystal was particularly happy to see that Doris had managed to convince Rosalie to stay behind in Allentown. Doris just smiled and nodded, not willing to destroy Crystal’s peace of mind by telling her the truth. The survivors explained the situation, and the women were more than happy to give them the rubber bullets; they couldn’t use the things in their current condition, and they had plenty of ammo even without them now that the armory was open.

The scouting party had easy going despite the cold. There seemed to be fewer zombies as they traveled west, and the roads became less cluttered with abandoned cars. Finally, they saw a barricade across the highway up ahead and took to the woods for cover. They snuck past a pair of Horsemen in a duck blind and continued on their way, finally reaching the edge of Frackville.

Their first view of the town was a grim one. While there were no walkers to be seen in the streets, the streets were watched over by crosses, upon which hung bodies. On close examination, the bodies seemed to be slowly writhing; Rasheed thought they might be some sort of early warning system, so the group chose to stay out of town proper and scout only with binoculars from a high vantage point.

They managed to make out a fracking rig on the far side of town, as well as getting a count of perhaps 20 or 30 Horsemen who seemed to split their time between the rig and a nearby bar. The Horsemen seemed to avoid town, though, preferring to live in shanties and tents near the rig rather than taking over the presumably empty houses.

After a few hours of scouting, the group decided they had seen all they were going to. Wanting to get back to the pick-up point before dark, they got moving, only to notice the cawing of a crow. Rasheed realized they hadn’t seen any animals for days, making Conrad suspicious of the crow. With stunningly quick reflexes, he reached out and snatched it from its perch; before he could break its neck, the crow began to speak!

The talking crow explained that his kind could hear the dead, and that the voices of the walking dead caused them pain. He called Rasheed an “old-talker,” and said that his clan had refused to come speak to him, on account of some old betrayal by people like him. But this particular crow—who Rasheed named Gary—had more courage than the others, and remembered other stories about old-talkers. He believed that Rasheed could help everyone, but that he must not allow himself to fall under the thrall of the dead, especially the one called the Red King.

Rasheed was shocked to realize that the Red King was one of the dead, rather than a sorcerer like himself. The scouts questioned Gary for a while, eventually realizing that his clan was nesting for the winter at a hot spring in the nearby mountains. Rasheed pledged to come and gain their aid, to convince them that he wasn’t like the others. Conrad just thought the whole thing was weird as hell.

After hours of walking and talking, Gary bade the scouts farewell and flew off, leaving them to rejoin the others. When they arrived at Pottsville, Doris had to do some quick thinking to keep Crystal from finding out that she had been deceived about Rosalie, but everyone managed to get out without causing any drama. With new knowledge and cases of bullets, the group piled back into the humvee and started back for Allentown.

On the way, they found a wrecked truck by the side of the highway, still smoking from a recent crash. Three bodies were laid out next to the truck—all shot in the head. It looked like someone had driven up alongside the truck, shot the driver, then pulled the other people out of the crash and shot them before stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down. Governor Byrne was deeply disturbed by the scene, and Brad complained that this would surely lead them into trouble…

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