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Day 2: New Leads

We did a repeat of yesterday.  Up before dawn and on the trail.  Things were pretty uneventful until we hit the outskirts of the ruins of Old Colville.  Nobody is really sure what hit Colville back during the dark times, but whatever it was, it didn't leave a lot standing.  There's nothing left standing that's above a meter tall.  Whole houses cut down with just the low lying outline of the house standing.  By now, a lot of its covered by soil and plants, but you can still make out all the outlines in the earth.  It's a weird spooky place and while I don't put a lot of stock into the haunted stories, the place feels wrong and there's nothing wrong about avoiding it.  You can never tell what lingering deaths might be left in that place.  When I say lingering death, I mean a huge assortment of sicknesses that happen to people who go into those places, some quick, some take years to die a slow painful death. The ruins of Spokane have a lot more buildings standing and a lot more contaminated places you can wander into.  Not to mention the creatures that live in the ruins there.  Generally speaking, you avoid the old cities unless you are one hell of  a crazy explorer with a deathwish. We got to Kettle Falls in good order in the late afternoon.  Long story short, after a lot of walking, talking and paying people off, we have a lead and it looks like they were here and headed down river a couple days ago.  I will go into the details in tomorrow's journal more as it looks like we will be spending the day on the river trying to catch up, so I will have some extra time to write in the journal.  It's late here now as we had to find canoes, get provisions and finally eat.  It looks like they have a couple wounded members in their party and that's slowing them down, which is to our advantage.  I hope we can catch them as we are going to make those bastards pay.

Day 1: Over the Pass

I've been gone awhile.  A bit over two weeks.  I set the date back as close as I could so hopefully that much time hasn't past for you.  I'm setting out again in a day or two, but I am going to get all this in so you can see what has happened.  Then when I return from this next adventure, I will do the same.  Hopefully things will be wrapped up at that point.  I kept a daily journal of the trip and I'm pretty much just going to put it straight in here on a daily basis.  It's all from my point of view and I'm not going to really reword it, so you are going to have to get used to how I keep journals. I met up with my team at the Junction before dawn and we headed up to the pass.  The old roads are pretty broken up and decayed at this point, but they mark the best way through the pass, provided you steer clear of the parts where the road has washed up.  We are  moving fast and light, knowing we could re-provision at K-Falls meant we could go a bit lighter than usual.  While I have stayed in good shape, we were moving at a rate you only use for a competition or for combat.  Urgency is an issue with us and we are shooting for 35-40 klicks before we stop tonight.  It's not a sustainable pace you can keep at day after day, but we can do it for two days.  At that point if we have a lead, it will most likely be downriver.  If we don't then, we can head upriver and hope to find something. We stopped for lunch just before midday to give us a chance to check our equipment and, most importantly, our feet.   I spent the majority of that break soaking my feet in an ice-cold lake, but Roji managed to snag a pair of rabbits.  We will be having those for dinner tonight if I don't miss my guess. Roji is my second in command and by far the best of us in ranged combat.  When he uses all his equipment, he's like some sort of old world battleship making the ground tremble and lighting up the night sky.  Shooting a couple of rabbits with his bow is akin to me lacing up my boots - not very hard.   I usually have Roji out on point when we are moving as I can trust him to be quiet and provide the most accurate assessment of threats.  He is a quiet intense sort of guy.  Roji likes to joke that he lets his guns do the talking for him.  The fact is, when its just the team, Roji talks a lot.  When anyone else is around, he's really quiet.  Usually he's sizing up the person.  That's why we work so well together.  By nature I am very social, so I get people talking and find out what they know.  Roji watches to see what they aren't saying and what their body language is saying. The rest of the day was rather uneventful.  We made good time and should be able to reach the falls late tomorrow.  We will have to skirt the ruins of the old city of Colville, but that shouldn't slow us down too much.   Once to K-Falls (or Kettle Falls as it was once known), we will set to work seeing if we can find any leads.  It was a hard first day, but the rabbits went down well and we have our night guard all sorted out.  I'm sure we will all sleep good with the effort today, but it was worth it.

Setting Out

Bear got up here this morning with the rest of my team.  He is going to get things fixed up here in my absence.  The scouts couldn't find any sign of the thieves, which is no surprise.  We were coming from upriver, so they wouldn't have headed that way.  East are the Selkirks and that's brutal mountinous back country if you aren't a native.  To the west there's only the pass for an easy exit and that is too obvious and trackable of an escape route.  Since everyone was returning from upriver, it makes most sense the bandits headed downriver, or north to where the river joins the Columbia, then head back south.  Since my suspicion is it's someone related to one of the tribes at the Pow Wow, my guess is they took the Columbia back south some distance, then they might strike east again, maybe even cutting back through the Dead City. Since they have such a huge head start, I have to take risks and cut as much time off as possible.  We are going to head over the west pass and strike straight towards K-Falls.  If they came south there, someone will have noticed them, it's too much of a trade hub for a party like that to go unnoticed.  Cutting off the loop in the river like that will shave a couple days off their head start as well.  It's a calculated risk, but it's the best chance we have.  Once there we can act accordingly. Bear is sending out messengers to all of our contacts in the various tribes looking to get any leads on people who went missing early from the Pow Wow.  We don't expect the people behind this theft to admit their people were missing, but everyone will talk about who they saw leaving from other tribes.  Somewhere in there we might get some additional clues.  Since it was the archive that was raided, we will more than likely see some reports.  Hopefully we can get some additional scouts out there keeping an eye out for a hunting party that doesn't seem too interested in hunting, and most likely far from their own stomping grounds.  Bear is also going to send some scouts downriver just in case those bastards are holed up somewhere north along the river waiting things out. I leave in the morning, but like I said, I will reset the date on the system on my return so you should not see any great delay between now and then.  Wish me luck, I have need of it.

Disaster

Elias, the old caretaker, is dead. You may have noticed the lack of posts.  While we were at the lake, some group attacked the refuge and killed Elias and some of the other workers here.  I am still not sure who did it, or why.  The trail is more than a week old and it will be difficult to follow.  Whoever did this, left no bodies behind, although there are more blood stains than the bodies left here can explain.  The attackers used firearms only and common ammunition sizes, so there is nothinig to be gained from that.  They also broke into one of Adrias' archives and stole several items.  I'm not sure which items though, so we are trying to do a quick inventory as what they stole might give us an indication of who took it. Among the things taken were the book we just found. I think this is an important hint at who made the attack.  We were talking about our find at the Pow Wow initially because we were excited, but Adrias told us to shut up about it.  Evidently he didn't do that soon enough and word got around.  It's my guess that someone who heard about the book left the Pow Wow early and hustled up here to make the strike. I am righteously mad about this and since I am in charge in Adrias' absence, I am taking action immediately.  The archive here has been maintained for generations for the benefit of all.  For someone to come and steal things from it is an affront to the entire clan. No one should harbor such a criminal, much less sanction such an action.  I want to know who did it, who put them up to it and deliver swift justice to them. I sent a messenger down to get Bear and my team from Homestead.  They should be here tomorrow.  I'm going to leave Bear in charge in my absence and take my team in pursuit.  I have some scouts out now trying to pick up the initial direction of flight.  We have been lucky and there has been no rain, but that will change soon. I will post again tomorrow before I go.  I have to get my gear ready and finish laying to rest the poor souls who died here.  One final note, regarding the "mind bender," there's a simple reason I don't do those things.  It's really hard to get this stuff to work in the first place and I take extra care just to make sure I get posts in the right order.  If I'm lucky, it shows up every day, or it might miss slightly and show up the next day.  That's allowable considering what I'm doing. Messing with that will only screw things up.  What I will do is reset the post date when I return from my pursuit so my first post from when I return will be within a day of my last post before I leave.  I suppose this has some benefits for you on that end as I have no idea how long I will be gone. I will keep a journal while I'm on the trail and then post that in chunks so you can will get a real good glimpse into what life is like here. More tomorrow.

Mind Bender

Your puzzler for the day.  If these are being sent back in time via some tricky byte manipulation, then couldn't I post these at any time I wanted and you would never know I was posting out of sequence or not.  For instance the second post made could, in fact, be the last post I ever make, but you would see it...second.  It creates some interesting possibilities.

Revelations

As stated previously, I am hardly the religious type, but I have sufficient knowledge to give the background concerning the idea that the long dark was the Rapture.  There's the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, three Angelic Announcements and then God's reign on Earth.  I won't bore you with all the seals (or a lot of the details in general), suffice it to say their are four horsemen associated with the first four seals.  They ride out, one at a time, each with their own compass heading.  These four go out and basically fuck shit up for everyone.  Famine, plague, war, drought, it's all there.  It's the end times, so it's supposed to be ugly and painful.  Looking back, that seems a fair description of what happened. There wasn't food to be found, every story agrees on that.  People died everywhere, both from disease, famine and war, so that checks out too.  Global disaster is global disaster when you get right down to it.  The details are almost unnecessary when you get to that scale. The fifth seal talks about a vision of heaven and those that died for their belief in the appropriate God, which is hard for us to verify at this late date. I will let that one pass, but add that I do admire religions that punish those that may live their lives in a very decent manner, but for whatever reason don't worship the "right" god.  The fifth seal could also be the beginning of the "Great Tribulations."  That sort of sounds mundane for something like an extinction event.  Granted I am not the expert on the English of your time period, but tribulations always seems like a small problem.  To me, that makes this sound like the Huge Minor Problems.  Take from that insight what you will. Once the Great Tribulations begin, we get the seven trumpets, three announcements and the sixth seal. The three announcements are, more or less, angels coming and telling people that those who don't believe will have their asses handed to them and those that do believe will have to suck it up and drive on (be faithful). Not a time to be a non-believer it would seem. Again, hard to say if the announcements happened or came from actual angels, although I have no doubts that those were very popular opinions when the old world was being ground down and people were dropping like snowflakes in a blizzard. Interspersed with this are the seven trumpets, the last of which might have coincided with the seventh seal. The trumpets are all bad news.  They aren't heralding a traveling festival after all.  These are things like a third of mankind will die, a third of this will die, a third of that will die, the ground will open up and black smoke will fill the sky turning day to night and hiding the stars.  During this, the sixth seal is when things enter end-game and the earth trembles and things generally fall completely apart.  Again, this seems like a good description of everything that happened.  I'm not sure how many people actually died, but I think its safe to say that an good estimate would be "most of them."  If you subscribe to the moonstrike theory of world ending, then that could cause something very much like this as well.  One thing people agree on, whatever happened, it rained ash or dirt, or something that wasn't rain, for days on end and the sun disappeared and summer never came for a year or more.  Those stories are everywhere.  For the rest, well it's religion, so its about faith to some degree, rather than facts. The thing we are really missing is the one thing that would prove this completely true.  The Kingdom of God on Earth.  The seventh seal and the last trumpet are supposed to herald the return of the King of Kings and whatever that entails. We live in a wonderful amazing world, but I can guarantee you it is not "heaven."  People do not drown in heaven, nor do they get mangled by an angry grizzly rousted out of his hibernation by the unseasonal warmth of a Chinook.  Of course, I didn't live in the past, so maybe this is heaven by comparison.  There is much debate among the religious types as to what the current state in my world means in a religious sense. Christianity is so fractured now, what with such off-shoots as Techno-Baptists, the Holy Vaders, and the Mennonite Revival Adventists.  Then there's the other religions like Muslims, Buddists, Hindu, and others, plus their off-shoots. It's a confusing world out there for the faithful, but a very colorful interesting one for those willing to open their minds a bit (a required bard skill). There's even talk of a the need for a new scripture, an even newer testament.  Not that there aren't a half dozen of those floating around with traveling preachers, but people tend to want something "official."  Even if it's only official with the quotes around it.

The Old Ones

It would be nice to think that our tribe and clan survived because of their native cunning and raw determination.  That's true, to a point.  Sheer willpower was needed to survive the long dark.  There's people who had better resources and skills who failed to survive because they couldn't take the pressure.  I can think of half a dozen children's stories that are nothing more than cautionary tales about people who lacked the mental preparation to survive.  While things have gotten easier, we sometimes still have the odd person who decides they can't take it any more and disappear into the wilderness forever. Willpower aside, someone had to have the skills to survive without all the technology of the past. Those people were the Old Ones. They brought life back to all people, directly or indirectly, by keeping their skills alive.  They were the keepers of the ancient ways of survival. They didn't use, or maybe I should say rely on, the old tech.  Not even before the long dark.  They were the people who, for whatever reasons, farmed using only their own muscles and that of their livestock.  They either chose, or were forced, to live their lives in a simpler way.  When the end came, they were impacted far less than most because they already knew how to live on what you could make or grow yourself.  They already lived in communal groups where people depended on each other for survival.  When the dark came, they had less food, they had less livestock, and times were hard.  What they didn't have to do is learn the basics of survival in the new world.  That made all the difference. Most everyone alive today owes their existence to one of these original groups of Old Ones.  Sometimes its not a single group, but several groups, all with different skills that bound together.  This is the case where we live.  Some knew the ways of livestock better and others the growing of crops.  It was enough to survive.  In the old cities, people didn't have these skills.  Those that made the tech of our personal systems didn't need to know how to plow a field or make a canoe from birch bark or cedar.  When the end came, they died because the skills they had no longer had any immediate meaning.  When you need to eat, you need to know how to hunt or grow something, not how to make a vid.  Most of the people on earth was found to be wanting when judgement day came.  In the end, as the bible says, the meek really did inherit the earth.

On the Road Again

This is the first of my entries while I am off to the big Pow Wow.  I told the Caretaker to post this two days after I left.  You can be the judge of whether he managed to do that or not.  Elias is a kindly diligent sort, but he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.  We can only hope he gets it right. Since I am on the road when this gets posted, I want to talk about some basic traveling skills we all learn as soon as we can walk. For the Pow Wow, it's easy enough to follow the river in canoes and know to head upriver.  You don't have to be much smarter than a stump to figure that out.  Likewise, anyone with a personal system can call up a map and have the system figure out where they are, complete with an overlay and a glowing arrow in your field of view to point you on your way.  Suppose circumstances force you away from the river and you don't have  (or can't use) a rig, then what do you do?  Land navigation is what you do.  You break out your old compass, any map you might happen to have and your knowledge of the terrain around you. Land nav is part science and part art form.  It's one thing to figure out where you are and where you need to go and it's another to get there without killing or exhausting yourself and your companions.  There are smart people in this world who will be in one spot and know exactly where they need to go and walk a straight line through thick and thin to get there.  That works and if that's all you know, it can be enough.  There are those among us though, who look at the bigger picture.  They look at the path the land offers, rather than the lines we draw in our head.  They see if they follow this ridge to the west, then cut over at that saddle, they may walk a slightly longer distance, but they will avoid a lot of up and down elevation changes, not to mention the creeks in those draws.  Experience plays into this a great deal, but I think it takes a special person to listen to what the land is saying.  It can be taught, but it can't be mastered in a lifetime. For me, being out in the woods is as close as I come to a religious experience.  The mottled light coming through the thick evergreens, the cool crisp air hidden away in little pockets, the patter of squirrels and melody of birds...it's all the voice of the forest.  I sometimes wonder why people feel the need to worship old dead gods, when the forest is a living one.  Traveling through the forest in a canoe for days on end and spending the nights on shore is the sort of experience I will never grow tired of.  Adrias says that many people in your period lived in the cities of steel and glass and never got to experience what I do on a daily basis.  That's one of the saddest stories I have ever heard.

Delving into the Past

Adrias is still going over the book and treating it.  Since we have to leave tomorrow for the Lake, I'm not sure when I will get to see it.  Adrias has it sealed up in a special container filled with some special "gases" that are supposed to stabilize it.   I will have to wait until his return for him to finish the process.  This is frustrating as the little bit of it I looked at was so interesting.  I will come back to that in a minute. From what we were able to piece together, it looks like two people took refuge in that cellar and were later trapped when part of the house collapsed.  There were some small vents we found on the inside and from the clutter of old rusted cans, it appears the couple lived for some time.    Judging from the chisel marks at the vents and around the trap door, there was some prolonged but failed attempts at escape.  There's a dark, tragic story hidden in that diary and I mean to have it.  We found the book in an old sealed plastic container.  It had protected it from the moisture and bugs, but its age had made the pages brittle. It was actually hand written in a strange script in faded green ink. Adrias says its "cursive" writing. Nobody writes like that any more, so I could only make out the odd word. The one page I read talked about "the war" and "the impact."  From my quick glance, it looks like the diary talks about the last days of the old world and the beginning of the long dark.  I wonder if the "impact" refers to the Moonstrike?  It's agonizing that right as we find this new interesting stuff that I have to leave and wait to learn what lies within.

The Old Foundations

What a day! We got into the ruins of the old house today.  It took us an hour to get in through all the old rust and flooring.  The cellar had been completely sealed all these years and it's contents were largely unspoiled.  It was in such good shape that we stopped even looking at it to reseal it so we could drag Adrias out tomorrow and do a proper exploration. The danger of destroying something important is too high to take chances.  The one thing I did bring back is golden and beyond measure.  I found a diary.  A diary from someone during the last days.  Adrias has it now so he can see what he can do about protecting it. More tomorrow as we start to unearth our past, or maybe that's your future.