When Isabella reported she'd have to take a brief leave of absence, the Rangers sent two new trainees, wilderness scout Douglas McIver and acanist Claudette Cornwallis, to assist Rex Murphy with his investigation. Captain Hill was still missing, but new information placed him in Alice looking into a confidential matter for the Rangers.
The party took a bus from Corpus to Alice and met up with the Rangers' liason with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's office, Deputy Lawrence Marquez. Deputy Marquez confirmed seeing Capt. Hill a few weeks earlier. He noted that Capt. Hill was inquireing about a missing person, one Lloyd Gage. Deputy Marquez told them that Gage was a courier for Howard Hughes, and that he often ran packages from the port at Corpus Christi to Houston when Hughes was trying to avoid unwanted attention. He said the last record they had of Gage was when he boarded the bus that ran from Alice to Houston. The party thanked him and headed to the bus terminal.
A clerk told them that the bus went missing sometime after leaving Alice and never made it to Houston. The party took a bus to Mathis, but there was no indication the courier's bus had made it that far. The party then backtracked on horseback.
Late in the day, McIver noted relatively fresh skidmarks that appeared to be from a bus or other large vehicle. The marks appeared to veer off toward an old ranch gate, which the party inspected and saw that it was heavily damaged. They determined it had been bent back into shape and was propped up. They tied off their horses and went through the gate. A search down the ranch road found a faint blood trail that led to the bus (disguised as a small hill).
They searched the bus and found the remains of the driver inside. He'd obviously been dead for sometime, but Cornwallis was able to use a necromantic effect to speak with his spirit. The driver confirmed that Gage had been in the bus but he didn't know where he went. He told her that he had to swerve off the road to avoid hitting a person who was standing there. One of the other passengers drew a gun and forced him to drive down the ranch road to the bus's resting place. He saw Gage escape out the back, but didn't see where he went – he was busy being set upon by dark creatures he couldn't clearly see and they were what killed him.
The driver's spirit then told Cornwallis he had been given a message for her – that items of tremendous power, called Apples of Asgard, had fallen to earth and one was nearby. He told her that she and the party had to keep them away from anyone who could misuse them, and that the safest way would be for the party to use the Apples and take on their power themselves.
As he faded, he warned them that there was much going on they did not see, and there were great forces of darkness afoot.
As the party started to leave, Max noted movement in a nearby tree. He was able to keep them from being surprised when three creatures suddenly appeared and began launching spines at them. After a fierce gunfight, and the judicious use of a detonation Cornwallis had, two of the creatures were dead and the party managed to see the other run through the trees and toward an abandoned barn in the distance.
The party was then surprised by the sudden appearance of Deputy Marquez! He told them he thought they could use help and followed them shortly after they left. They pointed out the remains of the creatures that attacked them, and Deputy Marquez identified the attackers … Chupacabras!
The party took cover in front of the barn behind a pile of scrap that had been a windmill and prepared for combat. Cornwallis used a telekinetic tug to try to open the door and got a sudden jolt of power – the two doors flew open, surprising the three chupacabras inside! The party opened fire and engaged the chupacabras.
Cornwallis saw a faint, golden glow and telekinetically pulled the source over to her – though she'd never seen the grapefruit sized sphere of golden light before, she somehow knew she was holding an Apple of Asgard. With a moment of concentration, she activated the sphere and it's power channeled into her, Max, and Douglas. She felt her arcane power surge, while Max felt his toughness increase and Douglas's accuracy sharpened. With their newfound power, the combat ended swiftly.
They heard a voice calling for help, and found a pale, emaciated man lying in the back of the barn – they'd found Lloyd Gage! Douglas went to offer aid, while Claudette searched nearby and found Gage's locked briefcase.
As Douglas helped Gage up, Gage saw Deputy Marquez and began screaming that they couldn't let Marquez get him … and Douglas drew his gun to cover Marquez! Marquez held his hands out and pointed out that he'd been with them, but they had no idea what might have happened to Gage. Douglas kept his gun on Marquez and ordered him down, while occasionally pointing the gun at Claudett or Rex to keep them at bay. Claudette did a quick scan and was shocked to see from the scan that Gage wasn't actually alive … he was a vampire! Worse, he had Douglas under his control.
Rex drew his gun and fired at Gage, but did no damage to him whatsoever. Claudette sprinted out of the barn to a scrap pile they'd used for cover and found three scraps of lumber that would make passable stakes. By the time she got back in the barn, she saw that Douglas had shaken off the vampire's control and shot a large hole in the vampire's head, but a) the damage was already regenerating and didn't seem to slow the vampire down in the least and b) Douglas had been bitten for his trouble. Claudette charged the vampire and tossed another stake to Douglas, while Max encouraged him. Gage ducked under Claudette's stake, but turning his back on Douglas turned out to be a fatal mistake – Douglas drove his stake into Gage's undead heart with one strike.
As he crumbled to a skeleton and then to dust, Gage whispered, "This is not over … this … is only the beginning …"
Deputy Marquez looked on in astonishment … and then said "I'll be taking that casssse now," while pointing his pistol at Claudette.
As if that sudden betrayl wasn't bad enough, Rex attempted to take the case from her – somehow, Marquez was controlling him!
Douglas fired a round at Marquez, grazing his hand and spinning his pistol into the shadows. Max tried to fire at Douglas, but the strain of attacking his comrade was enough to shake him from Marquez's control, and he fired a round that grazed Marquez instead. Marquez lunged at Max, and his mouth opened unnaturally wide revealing a flickering forked tongue and two large fangs – which he plunged into Max's shoulder, injecting poison as he did!
At this point, Claudette channeled a blast of arcane energy that tore across the barn and into the thing that had been Deputy Marquez, blasting a basketball-sized hole in his chest and slaying the snake man.
They tended their wounds, grabbed the brief case, and headed back to Alice on their horses before anything else could go wrong …