The story picked up a night later as Andrew’s car rumbled off the highway and down a path that could hardly be called a road. The forest had nearly reclaimed the road and deep ruts helped ward off interlopers from the reclamation.
During the intervening day, while not sleeping, Joey had done a bit of research into Centrelia while Andrew introduced Sam and Ethan to “Just” Joey Cogniti and Jack Malone, fellows interested in a formal krewe founding.
Joey Cavanough found that Centrelia had been a Mennonite community founded in the early 1800’s. Due to their religious heritage and relative independence from the rest of the state, the community was granted immunity to the civil war draft, and remained strong into the later half of the century. In 1874 a coal vein was discovered under the town. A company named Foundation Mining opened a mine in cooperation with the locals, allowing the Mennonites to work the mine and profit from it, while still largely maintaining their independence.
One day in November 1908, the town was discovered completely devoid of residents, with the underground coal vein blazing hot below the community. The bodies were never found, and the town was officially abandoned by the commonwealth.
Once Andrew’s car began bottoming out, the group decided to move in on foot, grabbing flashlights as the evening overtook them. The sun had fully set by the time the krewe came upon a curious sight. The road apparently had been nicely laid brick at some point, but a century had passed and the bricks lay intermingled with plain earth. A point in the path was found where the ground between the bricks was glowing orange and giving off heat. After the krewe simply gave the glowing patch a wide berth, they found on the other side a plume of smoke rising into the air, and apparently trailing on toward the town. The most curious thing about it was that the smoke seemed not to be physical, but of twilight.
The smoke had completely dissipated by the time the Bound made it to the village. Centrelia was still largely standing, though the forest had begun reclamation here as well. Many houses had windows partially smashed out, and animals seemed to freely come and go through the buildings. Sam dashed into the first home they came to, with the rest trying to keep up. The group searched the house and found the remains of a decently furnished home for the period, with furniture largely left where it was likely used a century ago, and cupboards full of dishes. An old bible was found in the first home, but left due to its size.
As the krewe explored more of the town they found in the middle a church, a school, and a sort of town hall. The church was devoid of anything save for benches, an alter, and some dust. The church seemed to have been largely left alone by nature, with the windows still in tact, and no evidence of animals entering. No sort of religious emblems or markings were found, though the group decided that seemed characteristic of the faith in question.
The town hall had four roll top desks that were probably very magnificent in their day, and a floor that seemed ready to give way in a moments notice, along with smoke constantly rolling out of the building. Andrew unlocked the Phantasmal Marionette to allow the Siren’s ghostly visage safe entry to the building. Andrew as the Siren checked the desks, finding three had become animal nests, but the fourth had remained relatively untouched.
As the krewe prepared to enter the remnants of the school, they heard several brief bursts of gun fire from the south, the opposite end of town from where they had entered, and the only known other way to a highway. The krewe quickly ducked into the school to discuss further plans. The group searched the school while discussing possibilities for the source of the gunfire. The group found the usual filth, along with a few dozen slats and random chalks pieces strewn about. Before anyone had reached a concrete conclusion about a course of action, Ethan noticed some sort of orange flash dash past the window, heading away from the sounds . . . and toward Ward’s car.
Joey unlocked the Stillness Shroud and sneaked outside for a look. He found a familiar trail of smoke that was indeed heading north. Joey headed back inside and the group deliberated quickly on a course of action, deciding to check the source of the gunfire first. The four quietly made their way down the road and out of town, in search of the sounds of violence. What they found was the group of four suits they had encountered the night prior, arguing among themselves. Girl was scolding Goggles (who did, indeed have his goggles on) for doing something brashly, while Goggles defended his position by claiming it was a matter of survival. Meanwhile Glasses and Goatee were trying to figure out how to get the corner of their van out of a hole leading directly to some orange-hot earth.
Sam immediately dashed out in an attempt to scare Girl, but was quickly thwarted by Goggles’ apparently heightened senses (or night vision). Sam briefly confronted the group alone, before Andrew stepped in to try to smooth things over, while Ethan and Joey remained hidden and observing (Ethan via Gravedirt Boneyard, and Ethan maintaining his shroud). Both sides tried to probe the other for information, neither gaining anything but lies. Sam grew increasingly frustrated with the tension of the situation, and as any 12 year old with a gun would do, pointed it at Goggles in anger. Thinking quickly, Andrew stepped in and proposed an alliance between the groups. Girl asked for a moment to mull it over in privacy, so Andrew and Sam stepped aside to let the group discuss.
Ethan easily overheard the other group’s discussion on the topic. Goatee and Goggles in favor, for this could be ‘their chance’, while Girl cautioning that just waiting and watching may be wiser. The entire group agreed that working together would let them keep an eye on the others. The suits agreed to work with the krewe on the condition that they all stop pointing guns at each other, which Sam reluctantly stopped objecting to eventually. As the six began walking toward the town, Wards tried to play a little get-to-know-you, which quickly prompted Girl to come up with (and quickly disregard) rule 2, “lay off the questions”. Rule 3, “Don’t fuck with my car” was established quickly after that.
When the group made it back to town, Glasses noticed Ethan and Joey following, which prompted all in attendance to give out a name, though it is suspected the suits’ names were patently false. The 8 searched through more of the towns’ homes, with the Krewe splitting up, while the suits all stuck together. Andrew discovered a silver Zippo lighter with a cartoon devil on the side in a desk drawer, which he quickly (and quietly) pocketed. Meanwhile, Ethan saw the orange flash again, and immediately began pursuit while calling for the others.
This time he got a good look at the figure. It was in the shape of a man, perhaps wearing overalls, but completely made of burnt out charcoal. The eyes were burning embers, while the beard was like hanging fire, and he had a hat of wide-brimmed smoke, apparently the source of the trails. Immediately the figure ran away from his shouting pursuer. The Krewe and Goggles gave chase, until Andrew faked feinting (as the krewe maintain that they are amateurs ghost seekers) so he could take control of the Siren once more, who’s flight speed easily overcame the fleeing figure. Ward immobilized the strange burning twilight man, so that Joey could try to grant cognizance to him. The Asphalt Lady interjected, warning Joey not to waste his blood and Plasm. Joey tried anyway, meeting with no result. The drop of blood merely dripped through him, while a small spot of Plasm stained his surface. The Asphalt Lady told Joey that this creature was never alive, to the confusion of the krewe. The group resolved that the thing needed destroyed, so Andrew released it, and Joey, Sam, The Siren, and Goggles all savagely attacked the fleeing creature. The man with the flaming beard opened a smoldering hole straight into the earth and dove into it in an attempt to escape the massacre. Andrew proved more tenacious as he braved the heat to destroy and consume the creature, not gaining nearly the nourishment that a ghost should provide.
In the wake of the encounter, the Siren vanished so Andrew could return, and the group reassembled, with many angry, nervous, and confused questions flying about. Eventually calmer heads and rule 2 prevailed without the Bound giving much information away. The groups eventually decided that it was best if they all head their separate ways for the night, and the group uneasily preparing for the chance that their paths cross again. The krewe helped the others get their van out of the hole and saw them off, before turning around to head into the mine . . .