Once we felled the werewolf, we took a look at our (now not-so-) furry friend. Wilhelmena and Josie noticed that the werewolf was covered in a silvery dust. On closer examination, I realized that this was actually silver dust. None of us recognized the significance at that moment.
Dusty dragged the body into the charnel house that was the shack filled with zombie bodies, and we resolved to backtrack the werewolf to its point of origin. So after cleaning up the area and covering our tracks as much as possible, we saddled up and sallied forth into the dark unknown.
After a couple of hours’ backtracking the wolf, following it into a narrow gorge, it finally got too late to keep my eyes open. I figure it was around four in the morning when I slumped in the saddle. I would guess that we stopped fairly soon after that and camped for the night, because the next thing I knew, I was getting kicked in the ribs by Wilhelmena, because everyone else had ridden off. I still wasn’t very fresh, it being only an hour or so after sunrise, but I was conscious, more or less. I guess some people can go for days without sleep and be happy doing it. I sure couldn’t, and wasn’t.
The canyon we were in was still dark, since the sun’s angle was so shallow and the gorge so deep. The floor probably only got about an hour of sunlight a day. I don’t know how he did it, but Dusty managed to find a box of four lanterns hidden in a crack in the rocks. We lit them and continued on, the horses not very happy about the situation. (Well, my horse is never happy about the situation whenever I’m around. We have a hate-hate relationship, but I have the saddle and the bridle, and the horse doesn’t have voting rights.)
Dusty mentioned something about the walls of the canyon “looking down at us.” I don’t know what the hell he was talking about, but the area was definitely giving off a foreboding aura. I guess the grinning skeleton pair we found a little further down the gorge didn’t help with that feeling.
We eventually ended up in a dead-end clearing, with a tiny mining shack, waterfall, mine entrance and burro yoke. I checked out the shack, which had a bag full of silver ore, but no other identifying items inside. At this moment, something flashed into my consciousness: The werewolf was covered in silver dust, yet werewolves are supposed to be deathly allergic to the stuff. And the moon wasn’t anywhere near full, which is supposed to be the time those critters roam. Something didn’t make sense here, but I was damned if I knew what it was. I filed it away in my brain-box for later perusal. Searching around the clearing didn’t reveal anything else interesting. The burro yoke hinted at the ownership of the mine claim, but it wasn’t certain by any stretch. So we decided to investigate the mine itself.
We entered the mine, and we split up at the first fork, Dusty going right, Tabitha going left, me going straight ahead to the next fork. Caleb, Josie, and Wilhelmena stayed at the fork itself, alert for trouble. It didn’t take very long for trouble to rear its head. Almost simultaneously, Dusty and Tabitha yelled a warning. Yes, more zombies. A bazillion of them. In both the left and right branches of the fork. I was going to have words with Old Coot if any of us survived this.
The next minute was a blur. Wilhelmena ran down to cover Dusty, who fired a shot down the hallway toward the zombies before backing off. I ran to help Tabitha, who had become surrounded and had taken a serious hit from the clawed flailing limbs around her. I got in between her and the deaders assaulting her and popped off a shot with my shotgun barrel, which staggered, but did not drop the closest deader. Oh oh. These were tough sumbitches. We were in for some serious hurt.
Then I heard a call from Caleb, who then tossed a stick downrange. It blew a small crater in the floor, along with most of the zombies shambling toward Dusty and Wilhelmena. Josie started retreating toward the entrance, she being the smartest of our lot. I shot another zombie, with much the same result as the first. Perhaps some bone and body fragments got blown off, but the deader kept coming. Right through me, and right at Tabitha. Well, they WERE coming right at Tabitha, but she wasn’t there any more. In her place was a little squirrel dashing down the mine towards the entrance in that funny bouncing run squirrels do. Did I mention it was a squirrel, instead of Tabitha? I think I did.
The Walkers swept by me, more intent on the squirrel than me. I guess squirrels are a tasty treat for the dead. I got off another shot as they pushed by me in pursuit of the squirrel, and I finally took care of one of them. I think Wilhelmena got another, while Dusty cleaned up in the other tunnel, until he got taken down by the surging mob surrounding him. Then a stick of dynamite hit me. I guess Caleb didn’t judge his throw very well, because he managed to slip the dynamite through the hoard of zombies coming at him, and basically drop it in my lap. Which was bad. The explosion clean knocked me out cold. I was probably dying, but since I wasn’t awake, It didn’t bother me very much. I guess the explosion also managed to take down most of the zombies in my branch of the fork, because the next thing I knew, Tabitha was kneeling over me, and I was awake. And mostly okay. Which was odd, considering I had taken a stick of dynamite to the gut.
While Tabitha was tending to Dusty and everyone else was regrouping, I decided to see what the fuss in the mine was about. I figured that there had to be something worth taking, if there was a reason to stock a mine full of deaders. I found some strange green-glowing rocks spread on the ground, obviously mined from the wall. I grabbed a large one, and took it back to the group, still at the fork.
Well, Wilhelmena freaked out about the rock, saying something about it “whispering” at her. So did Josie and Tabitha. I tossed it back down the hall, and we discussed what the hell we had found. Wilhelmena said that she had heard of this stuff, and she thought it was called “Ghost Rock.” My jaw hit the ground, and I rudely interrupted her explanation in my excitement. As the others retreated down toward the entrance, I tried to explain how valuable Ghost Rock was, and what it meant for the future. this stuff burned hotter than coal, and for much longer. I guess my exuberance was a little off-putting, since Dusty looked at me like I was crazy, and leveled his cannon at me. Remind me to pointedly discuss with him how much I dislike having guns pointed in my direction. For now I ignored him, and as everyone else left the mine, I went back into the room where I found the Ghost Rock and pocketed as much as I could carry. It had to be worth at least fifty or a hundred dollars; it would have been silly to leave it behind.
As I rejoined the rest of the group, the thing that had been banging on my hindbrain became more pronounced. Echoing through the canyon was the sound of war drums. Oh good. More company.