I want to tell you about Henry. Until yesterday afternoon he was one of the Exiles living in the fallback point. As of this moment, though the search is still ongoing, Henry appears to be the last member of that group. The last one alive, that is.
He was able to get a message to us, begging for help. He was weeping over the walkie-talkie as our people listened to his pleas. Henry was nearly incomprehensible, but our people could make out his repeated requests for help. At the time he contacted us, a few of his fellow Exiles were still alive, but dying painfully. Our people took a bit to get over the shattered bridges--and yes, of course we had a plan for that--and by the time they arrived only Henry and one other, a woman, were left.
She died on the way to New Haven, after our people figured out how to get an unconscious person over the rope bridge they'd extended over the river.
As of right now we've got a lot more questions than answers, but we know a few things. We know the Exiles were poisoned somehow and that many of them were already sick. We know the two guards our watchers saw yesterday are the likely culprits, for a variety of reasons that aren't important right this second. We know that this had to have been planned for a long time.
We know there are one hundred and seventy-seven dead over there. If there's a mercy to be found in this it's that there aren't many children among the victims. Which is probably the worst silver lining I've ever had to find.
A part of me wants to feel satisfaction. The Exiles are--were--our enemies, and I have hated them with a fierceness that far overshadows anything I've felt for the undead. Though hostilities have waxed and waned, the underlying rage has never completely vanished.
I've heard descriptions of the bodies. Whatever poison killed them, it wasn't pretty and it wasn't nice. Those people suffered agonizing deaths that took hours and probably felt like decades. If push had ever come to shove, I would have killed any of them to protect one of my own. I would have done it without hesitation or guilt, though not without regret. I would have done it quick and neat, with as little pain as I could manage, and that would have been the end of it.
Not this. Dear god, some of those people killed themselves rather than endure the pain any longer. We hope to know more when and if Henry recovers. The bits he told us before he finally passed out were a jumble, but we put enough pieces together to understand that the two guards we saw leave their post vanished minutes after they did so. They weren't subtle about it, announcing their departure and taking a vehicle for themselves.
I want to know what this is all about. I need to understand. The kind of cruelty dealt to the Exiles is beyond the limit of what we can accept. I want to know why. With luck Henry will pull through, and the fact that he's not dead says a lot for his chances, and we can start adding pieces to the puzzle.
For now we'll work on building a more permanent bridge across the river, and we will see to his people. In life they were enemies. In death their sins no longer matter. Whatever killed the Exiles prevented them from reanimating, and we will give them a funeral pyre. Then we will clean and search some more as we reclaim the other side of the river.
Something we have hoped to achieve for a long time now, but the reality tastes like ashes. Ashes and tears.