Background: With Joanna Westhaven confirmed dead and Amy Heseltine on hand, April and Elisa are able at last to present the surviving descendants of the Shadow Hunters to the law firm. However, Charles "Crash" Johnson is not evident (having been eaten by zombies in the Umbra Corp research facility) and so the team hits another snag in their efforts to get their parent's will read.
When the local law enforcement investigation into the incident at the Umbra Corp facility proves somewhat lackluster April realizes her leave time is running out. She calls into her own commanding officer and manages to get an extension on her leave from military service, then contacts Crash's commander to give him a necessarily censored accounting of his death. When he learns that local police are dragging their feet in the investigation he promises to make a few phone calls. Within two days the local police have managed to release the identification of all victims at the compound, including Crash. Neither April nor Elisa are surprised to learn that a fire of indeterminate origin consumed the entire building within a few hours of their departure. In most cases the victim's remains were only identifiable through dental records. The two security guards at the gatehouse are unaccounted for as well.
As expected, once the will has finally been read April, Elisa and Amy find that they now have joint ownership of the estate and all its contents. Once they've received the deed and have completed all the necessary paperwork they not so politely decline the firm's offer to represent the estate any further.
Deciding to leave immediately for the estate in order to estimate repair costs, upkeep and the like Amy informs them that a butler, working on an established trust fund, should have been keeping up the estate until now. She has, in fact, spoken with him concerning the estate within the last two months and even visited the grounds less than a year ago to look over some of their parent's journals.
Once they arrive they find the estate and grounds in relatively good shape and find the layout of the place pleasing. Elisa immediately decides she'll be moving in, assuming Amy and April aren't intent on selling. April, on the other hand, still has some years of military service to conclude and couldn't care less. She's only interested in the contents of the mansion's vault. Amy, meanwhile, remains vague as to her future plans.
Amy gives the two a quick tour of the grounds, hoping they'll come across the butler in the process. In the kitchen, however, they find a note from the butler dated several days ago in which he states that's he's accompanied his hunting club on an extended outing and won't return for some time. The note, found crumpled on the kitchen floor, also gives directions to the lodge should some emergency arise that requires his attention.
Amy is concerned because only the butler currently knows the combination to the mansion's heavily fortified vault...and also because there are muddy tracks leading into the kitchen from the adjoining room. Tracking the strange footprints they find that they meander throughout the first floor of the mansion from a shattered side window. It's clear from the condition of the kitchen, as well as the fact that the note was found on the floor, that whoever or whatever broke into the house found the note, read and discarded it before leaving out the window again.
When she relays her concerns to April and Elisa they immediately begin to prepare to make a trip out to the butler's hunting club. Amy stalls them, however, and tells them at last about the "friends of the family" that she's alluded to previously. Swearing them to secrecy she tells them of their parent's association with the secret government agency known as "Department 7" and their tireless efforts to stem the growing tide of shadow incursions. She tells them about their parent's history and her own work with Department 7 before finally getting to the point, offering to recruit them into the organization. When April and Elisa remain somewhat skeptical and don't leap immediately to sign up Amy offers to Elisa that employment with the organization can easily lead to opportunities for advancement unlike other more competitive companies. Elisa, unsatisfied with her career as a paramedic so far, then finds herself a bit more convinced. April, on the other hand, requires nothing more than the assurance that Department 7 can get her "reassigned" from her military service and finally offer her the excitement she's been looking for.
In the end they both give their tacit approval for Amy to contact her superiors and have them considered for recruitment, more or less a foregone conclusion considering the dearth of "shadow sighted" people these days to recruit from.
By the following day Amy has received word from her handler that both Elisa and April have been approved for a probationary appointment, pending basic orientation. Furthermore a low-level recruit, Jack Spade, is to be transferred to them replacing Amy, who herself is to be promoted within the organization. She is to serve, in fact, as the team's handler. Amy is naturally thrilled and the girls are at least relieved to be working with someone they know and trust.
Meeting Jack, who arrives Wednesday morning, the girls quickly decide they have a new meat shield...and one with mechanical skills at that. After making polite introductions and spending the day getting to know one another they assign Jack a room in the mansion and await orders notifying April that she's been transferred. Elisa calls in and simply quits her job.
Thursday morning April receives orders via Fed Ex notifying her of her reassignment, immediately recognizing that the new unit is not only fictitious but no base or commanding officer is listed. Amy assures her that she's now assigned to Department 7, along with herself and now Elisa. Satisfied, the team gets together to prepare before heading out to the mountains to track down the butler and get the combination to the mansion's vault.
Elisa spends some time researching the lodge where the butler, William Cartwell, is supposed to be staying. She finds a wealth of information, little of it pertinent. Two points of fact that are relevant being that the temperature is quite cold at that elevation and that they'll only be able to travel by vehicle partway up the mountain, forced to go by foot from there.
Having gathered all the information they can the team loads up their gear and heads out for the mountains.
After three hours driving they arrive and park at the foot of the trail that supposedly leads up to the Ten Point Buck hunting lodge. Jack contemplates taking his Ducait racing bike up the trail but Elisa assures him that, from all she's read, that would soon prove an exercise in futility. The trail gets rather rough fairly quickly. Additionally, she informs Jack and April that they're looking at a two day hike to the lodge as the Ten Point Buck hunters apparently take their hobby very seriously. The good news is, thankfully, there are a number of crude shelters scattered here and there along the trail that are customarily free for anyone to use.
With a weary sigh the team break out their survival gear and go over their other equipment as well, making sure they have everything they might need and nothing they won't. Although they are concerned for William Cartwell, evening is already coming on so they sleep that night in their cars (Jack begging a spot in Elisa's Acura). They will leave out an hour before dawn the next morning.
The first day up the trail proves uneventful (and very, very cold) with the team camping out in one of the shelters along the way. The following morning they move out again, hoping to at least come close to the lodge before nightfall. Unfortunately they manage to wander off the trail somewhere along the way and soon find themselves in exceedingly rough terrain. Jack, despite having no real wilderness skill, manages to find the trail again after much time looking and the team are back on track. They are frustrated to have lost half a day, though.
After camping (hopefully for the last time) in a shelter on the trail, they move out again the following morning. Hiking for only an hour more they stumble across a most disturbing discovery. Off the trail to their right the team spots a flash of color and soon identify it as a human figure sitting beneath a tree. Moving closer they see the snowy ground around the man stained rusty with blood.
Donning surgical gloves Elisa moves forward to investigate while Jack and April immediately shoulder their Winchesters. Elisa soon reports that the man has suffered some kind of bite wound to his shoulder which has since been bandaged. She is unable to determine what kind of bite it is. Apparently, though, the man not only tore away the bandages while sitting here but seems to have dug at the wound to encourage it to bleed. He bled to death long before he froze, in her estimation.
But even more disturbing than that, however, is that the man appears to have punctured both his own eardrums with a small pocketknife before he died.
While she investigates Jack and April both notice the mountain lion crouched in the bushes near the trail up ahead, watching them. Jack decides this isn't a good day to take chances and fires at the cat, wounding it badly. It immediately dashes into the woods and disappears, trailing blood.
Once Elisa admits she's learned all she can from the corpse they move on. April holds the team up for a moment taking pictures of the corpse from various angles in case some documentation proves necessary later.
Still several hours out from the lodge the team continues hiking up the trail, this time with Winchesters at the ready and keeping a closer eye on their surroundings. As they hike on Elisa catches sight of something following them out of the corner of her eye. When she turns to get a look, however, she sees nothing or at best a mere wisp of cold fog. When this occurs for the third time the team stops, hunkers down quietly and takes a close look at their surroundings. They don't see anything at all.
Moving on Elisa continues to catch the maddening glimpse of some unidentifiable movement at the periphery of her vision over and over until the team have stopped twice to search their surroundings. Jack even volunteers to make a wide sweep of their perimeter and finds nothing, nor any tracks around them.
When the team presses on Elisa begins to hear the low sound of someone whispering to her, too low to understand. When she reports this to the team they begin to take the situation even more seriously and move her to the middle of the line. Again taking a good look around them they can't spot anything, though Elisa is clearly becoming anxious despite herself. As they press on again toward the lodge, with Jack and April at either end of the line with Winchesters shouldered, the whispering and corner-of-the-eye glimpses continue until Elisa soon becomes almost frantic.
When they reach the end of the trail at last and spy the lodge ahead they keep Elisa well in sight and stay on their toes. As they approach closer they can see the thin snow and frost around the lodge is relatively undisturbed except for a single set of footprints leading away from the lodge and down the trail. Along the path of the footprints brown splotches of blood are easily visible as if the man who made the trail was bleeding badly as he ran. Despite the hard chill in the air the front door of the lodge stands wide open and there is no smoke coming from the chimney.
The team eases forward to the front door of the lodge, peeking in to see what they can see from outside. From there they can easily see that most of the furnishings in the small building have been demolished and used to barricade the windows. The front door, too, has a stack of boards and oblong pieces of wood that clearly once blocked it, though they seem to have been torn off the door. Bloodstains and burn marks adorn the walls and floor of the lodge.
Joking that it's time to play meat shield, Jack steps into the lodge. He quickly discovers that he wasn't joking after all when he's immediately jumped upon by a howling, gibbering madman.
Mad Hunter leaps up and bites Jack the moment he steps through the door.
April steps to the side and fires her Winchester through the window at the Mad Hunter. She hits, despite his cover. Still, it's clear the shot has no effect on the madman at all. Elisa steps to her side and fires through the window as well but misses. The Mad Hunter slams Jack with his fists, howling.
Jack withdraws back out the door to a good safe distance from the lodge.
April and Elisa both take another shot at the Mad Hunter through the window before drawing back to where Jack stands. Only April manages to hit him and she's relieved to hear him grunt in pain. Apparently that shot actually hurt him.
The Mad Hunter leaps into the doorway and runs full tilt toward Jack gibbering madly the whole way until he engages him. Jack, rather badly battered already, decides that discretion is the better part of valor and tries to put some shooting distance between himself and the crazy hunter. He withdraws as far as he can.
April and Elisa decide they're too close for comfort too and each take a step back before firing at the Mad Hunter. April hits and scores a critical while Elisa is frustrated to have missed again. Amazingly the man is still raging despite the lead April's put in him. He attacks Elisa and slams her hard before she can get away.
Jack fires from the edge of the clearing but misses wildly.
April takes aim and fires, hitting him again but still not putting him down. She begins to wonder just what the heck they're dealing with here. Elisa bravely takes a step back and fires at the Mad Hunter but only clips his tattered clothing.
The Mad Hunter moves to engage Elisa and she boxes him in the face, though to no discernable effect. He swings at her again but misses. Jack fires once more and misses again. He yells for Elisa to run.
April drops her rifle and draws both pistols, firing twice at the Mad Hunter and hitting once. Still he doesn't go down. Elisa takes Jack's advice and withdraws, running back toward the lodge and hoping to keep the Mad Hunter in everyone's sights. The Mad Hunter pursues, running all out in an attempt to catch up to her. He catches and engages her.
Jack fires at the Mad Hunter, but at that range he misses badly.
April dashes off after Elisa and the Mad Hunter, keeping him at close range. She fires with both pistols and hits both times. Finally it seems she's at least disabled him when he stumbles. Elisa, not taking any chances, withdraws again and runs around back toward Jack.
The Mad Hunter, disabled but still full of fight, turns and moves toward April, engaging her. Jack takes a chance and runs forward to fire again. He misses.
April takes a step back and unloads with both pistols. To her chagrin she misses both times. Elisa, meanwhile, finally has the lunatic off her tail. She turns and fires but she misses too. April braces herself for a pounding.
To her surprise the madman misses badly, likely too wounded to fight effectively. Jack finally redeems himself, having missed every shot he threw at the Mad Hunter since the fight began. He fires and drops him at April's feet.
Gathering around the dead man the team checks him over. Elisa soon announces that the man has a very pronounced case of frostbite on both feet and is amazed he could even walk, much less chase after everyone. Furthermore he bears numerous wounds, including bite marks, and a variety of infected sores. The fact that he was apparently frothing at the mouth does not bode well either and she makes a point of insisting Jack be checked for rabies as soon as they get off the mountain. Taking a moment to search the man for identification they aren't all that surprised to find that it's none other than William Cartwell, the butler they've come looking for.
Leaving the dead butler in the snow the team moves into the lodge and are immediately stricken with the smell of decaying flesh. A thorough search of the place reveals two corpses hidden under the blankets of two of the beds. Both the remains are little more than bloody skeletons and it appears that William had been eating from them for some time.
The team gather the remains and toss them, wrapped in blankets, into the storage room and then shut it firmly. With both Jack and Elisa battered they decide they'll make use of the relatively secure lodge to heal overnight. Not to mention if there is something more at work here than a lone madman, it's better that it make itself known here where they can defend than on the trail back down the mountain at night.
It's only moments after they manage to take a breath from all the excitement before Jack and April notice Elisa has her head cocked again, listening to ghostly whispers and startling around her at phantoms.
Once the team has more or less settled in they shake Elisa a bit and get her to work treating both her and Jack's injuries. It becomes clear very quickly that she's thoroughly off her game and her treatment accomplishes little. Getting a bit nervous the team consider disarming her but settle for putting her to rest in an empty (and clean) bed and keeping a close eye on her. After some rest both Jack and Elisa have recovered only slightly and it's approaching midnight.
Elisa continues to be plagued by vague whispers and half-glimpsed movements, growing only more anxious as time goes by.
As midnight approaches the team brace themselves on the off chance that whatever strange force is at work here puts stock in a good old fashioned stroke-of-midnight attack. Nonetheless they are surprised and startled when midnight comes and they hear wolves suddenly begin howling mournfully (and loudly) right outside the cabin...on all sides. A quick peek out the boarded up windows confirms that there are at least a dozen of them, none of them more the a few feet from the cabin walls. One of them growls at Jack when he catches sight of him peeking out.
This continues for well over an hour until the PC's give up any hope of actually sleeping that night. April and Jack are soon quite nervous from the eerie howling all around them but Elisa actually looks slightly relieved to have something else to focus on. Still she continues to hear the maddening whispers and is constantly startled by movement at the edge of vision.
When 1:00am approaches the attack they've been dreading finally comes.
The Wendigo, incorporeal, flows through the wall of the cabin to engage Elisa.
The Wendigo rematerializes, showing the PC's his true form: a crazed man with wild hair and sharp, jagged teeth. Both his feet end in charred, bloody stumps and his face bears a recent, partially healed burn mark.
Jack immediately opens fire with his Winchester and hits. April draws both her pistols and cuts loose, scoring both hits and one a critical. She's surprised when she drops the creature instantly.
Elisa takes to her feet and dashes across the cabin, the hell away from the thing.
As the team watch the creature for a moment to be sure it isn't going to get up suddenly and eat someone, none of them notice its wounds closing over and rapidly healing.
Jack steps to the window to see what the wolves are doing and finds they've suddenly stopped howling over and over outside. They haven't made a move to try to enter the cabin, though, and seem to be milling around in confusion.
April steps to the door of the cabin and opens it, intending to fire off a couple of shots to scare off the wolves.
Elisa, already at the door and eager to get out of there, takes the initiative and fires off a shot out the door and yells at the wolves. They startle and tense to run off.
Suddenly the wolves stop and begin howling again in unison. Everyone is startled when the Wendigo, who's taken to its feet (so to speak) while everyone was turned away, charges Elisa. He slams into her and lands a vicious bite that nearly knocks her out.
Jack spins around, drops his rifle and draws his Desert Eagle. He fires at the Wendigo, spending an action point, but misses. April, guns already in hand, fires point blank at the Wendigo, spending an action point. She hits both times and, to everyone's amazement, scores a double critical with her Desert Eagle. The Wendigo goes down again.
This time the team shuts the door and keep their weapons trained on the Wendigo. When it doesn't move again immediately they decide to watch it for a full minute before making any other move. When the minute has nearly expired they finally notice the wounds on the creature are healing over gradually the whole time.
The PC's immediately pump a few rounds into the thing, then send Jack outside to scare the wolves off properly. Once he's done so they drag the Wendigo outside. There they consider what to do with a regenerating, incorporeal zombie. After stopping every few moments to shoot it a few times they figure they better decide soon before they run out of bullets. In the end they decide a good, old-fashioned dismembering and burning is in order.
If that doesn't work they'll be reduced to just shooting it and running really fast down the trail.
While the team works through a disturbing amount of ammunition keeping the Wendigo down, Elisa builds a fire from some of the bedding and dismantled furnishings in the cabin. Jack volunteers for the wet work and gets to hacking the Wendigo into roughly equal portions with his hatchet. The team then hauls the individual bits of Wendigo back inside on a blanket, spills the jug of kerosene from the store room around the place and sets it ablaze. They take positions around the cabin to watch it burn and be sure nothing gets out.
As the sun comes up the cabin is still burning brightly and they haven't noticed anything escaping the blaze. They figure they have to assume the Wendigo is done for and quickly (just in case) begin hiking back down the trail.
Arriving at the base of the mountain late Wednesday night the team don't stop to rest and simply pile into and onto their vehicles, heading straight back to the mansion. Though they haven't recovered the combination to the vault they are nonetheless relieved to have simply escaped alive.
The team spends the day resting and catching up on the sleep they've missed.
The team contacts Amy and briefs her on what's happened. She decides to come out to the mansion and consult with them. The team then contacts a local safe company to get some references and finally tracks down an independent contractor who'll take on the task of breaching the vault for them.
When he arrives later that evening and the team escort him down to the basement they have occasion to realize they've never actually visited the vault before. As they enter the basement they find the vault door flung open and the vault itself completely empty.
Jack Spade takes a level of Tough, choosing Fire Resistance as his talent and Advanced Firearms Proficiency as his third level feat.
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