It was the darkest night that Lexia could remember. She gazed out the window and wondered, was it a new moon or was the smoke from the burning barn filled with the corpses of undead farmers obscuring the moonlight. The day dad been exhausting and disturbing, but every time she closed her eyes to sleep, her mind began to race. There were so many unanswered questions. Who is this evil bastard that is killing people and spreading this unholy disease? Why is he carving the Thassilonian star onto the bodies of his victims? Why is he obsessed with her? The clues suggest that he is somehow connected to Aldern Foxglove, but he returned to Magnimar a few weeks ago. Did he know that this was coming? Is that why he left without any warning?
Just when her thoughts began to settle, she heard something from outside her window. It sounded like a child whispering. She sat up, her glaring eyes frozen at the window, wondering if she was imagining it or if someone was really out there. Then she heard it again, but this time it whispered more clearly, “Mommy, help me,” but it was still too soft to locate.
Lexia carefully slid out of the bed, and crept to the window. She looked as hard as she could to find the source of the voice. The barn embers provided some light, but not enough so she summoned her dancing lights and sent them out into the yard. She was so focused on her examination that she didn’t notice the quiet click of the door behind her as it gently opened. She didn’t hear the slow silent steps as a hand stretched out and grabbed her shoulder, but her blood curdling scream could be heard for miles as she spun around to see Father Joseck Winters.
She sighed in relief to see her friend, until he doubled over and began to vomit. He retched and heaved, eventually collapsing onto the floor, but the sickness didn’t end. He began to twitch and thrash, sloshing in his own mess, and when the contents of his stomach ran out, he began to regurgitate bile and blood. Lexia called out to Meadow for help, but no one came.
Finally his struggling ended and he was lying still on the floor. She leaned down to try and help Joseck, when he pulled on her hand and tried to bite into her arm, but his seizures had been so brutal that he had dislocated his own jaw and had torn his face into a permanently yawning maw hanging slack against his chest. She tried to run to the door, but slipped in Joseck’s ichor, her momentum slamming her into the previously unseen shambling desiccated bodies of her friends Meadow, and Telchar. Instinctively, she turned to her arcane training and struck them with a multi-chromatic spray of magic to distract them, but it didn’t seem to affect them.
She struggled to get to her feet, as they grabbed at her and began to tear the flesh from her body. She felt her skin tear and her bones snap as she woke from her nightmare crying out in pain and fear. Dawn had not yet arrived, but she didn’t dare close her eyes again.