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Tucked into a bedroll near the fire, every time Gabriel drifted off to sleep, a crack or a pop from the burning wood brought back the sickening memory of the leg jolting up into the air, the flesh’s wet tearing sound, the bones creaking and cracking as they expanded, that woke him back up.  He had tried moving away from the fire, but the cold night air had brought him huddling back closer to the flames.

As the sun rose over the distant horizon, Gabriel stirred.  The fire had gone out at some point during the night, and without the constant haunting sounds, Gabriel had been so exhausted that he had finally fallen into a dreamless sleep.  He got up and had some fresh rabbit stew that was being cooked in the town, the former occupants larders having been raided.

“So, how many people am I looking for?”  Gabriel asked Craig as he sat down next to the new Father of the Garinth Temple.

“My best guess is there are about ten or eleven people unaccounted for.”

“And are they…” Gabriel was trying to dance around what he knew was a sore subject.

“I don’t think so, but if they are, they will be like the four yesterday, not really active yet.”

Gabriel was not sure which was worse, having to fight eleven werewolves, or having to chop the heads off of eleven more of those, he shuddered, things.

“And you said the temple is…”  Gabriel was fishing for a direction, or something less vague than a few miles.

“Go north out of town, it is along the road, you can’t miss it.”  Renault walked in and sat across from the pair.

“You’ve been there?”  Craig’s heart jumped as he spoke.

“I passed it.  Listen Gabriel, have you ever used one of these?”  He held out a small hand crossbow.

“I trained with larger ones before.”

“Good, you can borrow this one while I tend to this temple here.  May it serve you as well as it’s served me.”

“Thank you," Gabriel took the small weapon and set it on the table, pointed at Renault.

“Be careful, there is already a bolt loaded.”

Gabriel looked harder at the small device and noticed a piece of wood holding a bolt into place.  He flicked a clasp on one end of the piece of wood and it sprung open, leaving the small projectile ready to fire.  Cocking the string, Gabriel pointed the crossbow at a nearby wall and pulled the trigger.  Thwip thunk went the bolt as it flew through the air and imbedded itself into the structure.

“Nice.”  Gabriel stood up and retrieved the bolt from where it had embedded itself in the wood.

Breakfast finished, Gabriel said his farewells, and taking the crossbow, went out to where his horse was tied up.  He strung his new weapon to the saddle and took off, heading north out of town.  As he rode, Gabriel began looking for signs of peoples passing.  Other than the ruts from the passing of wheels and the footprints in the path itself, Gabriel saw nothing that said the people he was looking for had gone in this direction.

After about an hour on the trail, the young Paladin saw a large building looming in the distance.  He continued to ride and soon the building stood before him.  Gabriel tied his horse to a nearby tree and began a slow circle around the rectangular building.  The only entrance seemed to be the double doors in front, standing slightly askew.  Large stained glass windows lined the two longer walls, many of which were broken, corners missing, or holes through their centers.  Gabriel got close enough to one of the windows to peer in.  The sunlight that seeped through the windows fell upon row after row of pews, set up and looking at a large pulpit at the far end of the chapel from the doors.  As he stood next to the building, he began to have trouble breathing, the air feeling thick in his lungs.  As he continued to look through the window, he got the impression that the walls were moving toward him.

The young man tried to take a step back but his legs felt like stones.  He struggled and finally distanced himself from the building, the the feeling receding as he got further away.

Contemplating his next move, Gabriel thought he heard a movement inside the chapel.  Grabbing the crossbow from his saddle and setting a , he slowly snuck up to the door.  Placing his hand on the edge of the already open door, he tried to open it further silently, but the portal creaked on its hinges.  A creature burst forth through the opening and instinctively, Gabriel fired the crossbow.  Reeling backwards, he fell, but managed to draw his sword as he plunged onto his back.

It took Gabriel a moment to realize that no follow up attack came, and looking around, he saw an owl sitting on top of the chapel, staring at him.  He could not help but laugh at the situation as he stood up and dusted himself off.  The door to the chapel was standing wide open now and light flooded into the building, better illuminating the pulpit, a fallen lectern lay in the middle of the stage, dust motes dancing in the sunlight.

Again, Gabriel approached the door, the oppressive feeling returning, and steeling himself, Gabriel took a step inside.  In addition to being thick, the air scorched his lungs as he walked across the wooden floor, his footsteps echoing in the empty building.  He approached the fallen lectern and thought he heard muffled sounds coming from nearby.  Looking around, Gabriel took in the ceiling of the building, the corners above the door opposite from where he was still drenched in shadows.

The Paladin began to walk around the chapel, listening to the echoes of his feet, and listening more carefully for the muffled voices he had thought he heard.  The voices grew louder as he approached the toppled lectern.  Setting his sword down and removing the shield from his back, Gabriel set about trying to right the podium.  When the wooden piece of furniture finally sat on its bottom, Gabriel and it were bowled over by a large flying shape from the rafters.

The End

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