With news that the one year conscription is to be extended to a compulsory four year term, the number of deserters increases dramatically, with most returning to farms that are slowly dying. The posse has no such concerns, and with Cooke promoted to the rank of Corporal, they are given an area to search for those that have chosen to run. The orders are to arrest them and return them for trial.
The group head towards Blue Mountain Valley, searching several abandoned farms on the way, but with little success. As they close in on the valley, they find a dropped, military-issue canteen. Guthrie quickly finds the trail of the owner and leads the group to a mutilated corpse of a Confederate soldier, possibly a deserter, but far too gone for anyone to care.
They push on into the wooded valley, with Guthrie following a stream that leads him to a secluded log cabin. Corporal Cooke approaches and is met by the owner, one Levi Stone, his wife Hannah and their three sons. They seem friendly, and are certainly not deserters, although they have seen new tracks in the valley that could belong to soldiers. After a pleasant supper and a quiet night sleeping in a barn filled with furs, the group splits up to investigate the tracks. Each group runs the gauntlet of various death traps, before the woodsmen show their true colours and turn on the group. Two of the sons are relatively easily dealt with, although McCoy has to hack Levi apart before the juggernaut of dead meat eventually shudders and lies still. Sonny has a more difficult time, as he stayed at the cabin with the third son, Gideon, who overpowers him using some strange chanting and odd finger movements, before knocking him out.
The group return to the cabin to find Hannah, who confesses all. Her husband and sons changed dramatically when they discovered a ‘church’ in a part of the valley she has never been to. Ever since then they have become vile hunters, sacrificing any travellers they find at the ‘church’. Heading to the indicated location, the posse fan out and converge, not on a building at all, but on a strange wooden ‘post’, dark with blood and surrounded by the bones of its victims. Sonny is rescued, Gideon killed and the post burnt to the ground. McCoy swore it was no totem pole, despite the obvious stylised face gazing malevolently from the dark wood. They then fled the valley, finding no deserters, but happy to be returning to the protection of the army.
Based on ‘A Hard Road to Travel’ from Strange Aeons II and ‘The Hills Rise Wild’ from Arkham Unveiled (both published by Chaosium). With an unhealthy dose of ‘Ravenous’.