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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Book of Bones

Weeks or months after a brush with the Mythos, the modern-day investigator notices an irregular bruise spontaneously forming on one arm. Though painless, the bruise appears to resemble illegible writing. Over days, despite all efforts, the bruise spreads and grows legible. An X-ray or CAT scan shows that the investigator’s bones are engraved with small, precise letters in an alien script, which the growing bruise duplicates.

Possibilities

1 In the earlier Mythos encounter, Nyarlathotep noticed and cursed the investigator. The alien words, when fully formed in a week, transform the investigator into a Living Bruise, an invalid who lives in continual agony. Certain tattoos cure the curse (without conferring other protection), but the only qualified tattoo artist lives in Burma. Alternately, the victim can call Nyarlathotep, who grants a year’s relief from the curse in return for a service, such as destroying an Elder Sign in a distant ruin.

2 Decades ago the investigator’s grandfather, a secret worshipper of Yog-Sothoth, performed a ritual on his unconscious daughter that marked all her descendants. The investigator’s siblings are also forming bruises, which describe the spell Call Yog-Sothoth. Each victim experiences dreams that translate the alien script. The investigator’s attempts to inform his siblings may heal or create family breaches. The bruises fade normally, but will reappear in the next generation.

3 Despite the victim’s entreaties, the doctor who performed the CAT scan can’t resist sharing the peculiar case with fellow physicians. Word reaches a Brother of the Yellow Sign in a nearby hospital, who identifies the investigator as a sacrificial victim chosen by Hastur. A group of cultists posing as doctors capture the investigator and friends and read the bruises aloud. The resulting spell transports the investigators to the underground world of K’n-Yan, where Brothers wait to flense the flesh from the victim’s bones and inter them in a sacred library. If the victim escapes, the bruises fade.

© Allen Varney

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bloody Red Tape

An acquaintance, a clerk at a government department, has been missing for a couple of weeks. While the clerk’s co-workers acknowledge that it is rather odd that he hasn’t turned up for work, nobody seems to have tried to contact him.

He is still being issued with a pay check, and everything appears normal at his office – except for his unexplained and barely acknowledged absence.

Possibilities

1 It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. In the eyes of his co-workers, the office is more efficient and life is a lot more pleasant without him. They don’t know where he has gone but no-one is asking too many questions because they don’t want him back. No-one has bothered to inform personnel.

So what really did happen?

After a hard night on the booze in an unfamiliar area, he was followed out onto the street and violently mugged. His wallet was stolen, so no identification was found when they picked his comatose body off the pavement. He is still in hospital, in a coma.

2 When asked directly about the clerk, the co-workers can answer simple questions, but appear unable to concentrate. He seems to slide from their consciousness. Although they complain about being understaffed, none of his co-workers really notice his absence, or think about him when jobs that would normally have been assigned to him come up.

One woman, however, shows signs of anxiety when questioned, despite not having any firm recollections. The clerk had become fixated on the woman, and she had eventually complained about his unwanted attentions to the section manager.

The clerk was a dabbler in the black arts.  He had come across what he had thought was an invisibility spell, which he had cast to better observe the object of his desire. However, the spell was far more powerful than he’d realised, and he was removed from the perceptions of the world and the minds of his colleagues.

He is presently trapped in limbo, observing the world but unable to interact with it.

3 There’s something not quite right about the co-workers. Astute investigators will notice similarities in the features of the other clerks, and will begin to feel uneasy in their presence. Closer inspection shows that most of the workers in the department have the same unsettling disfigurements in the form of patches of blanched skin and slightly malformed ears.

The workers are, like the Innsmouth folk, the offspring of humans and an evil, non-human race. They have been slowly taken over this department through prejudicial hiring practices, in order to further the malevolent purposes of their dark sires.

The clerk was hired, ironically enough, as the result of a filing error, and was discreetly disposed of when he found out too much about the department’s personnel.

© Barbara Robson and Stuart Barrow

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Stones of Doom

The investigators are spending an uneventful night in a supposedly haunted house (it isn’t). At two in the morning they hear the drum of heavy rain, then the clattering of hail. This soon changes to a heavy thumping sound as windows are smashed by severe hail. While trying to block up the broken windows, the investigators see that the hail is not melting on the floor but sinking through it!

One investigator grabs a newspaper, attempts to capture the weird hailstones. These sink right through the paper and into the floor. Another investigator uses a silver tea tray from the table. Only the stones that land on metal survive, leaving three small stones which are of uniform colour and close in size. There are strange markings on the stones...

Possibilities

1 While investigating the stones, the investigators come across the name of Ormand Blecht, a self-proclaimed witch and maker of stone charms. While visiting his remote home, the investigators are attacked by his large black dog, his familiar. They may have to kill it or be severely maimed. This act makes Blecht lie to them about the stones and he says that they are very dangerous in their present state. He recommends the stones be re-assembled during a full moon then buried, so that their power may be neutralized. Doing so causes the stones to hum loudly – and summons two shantaks to assault the investigators.

2 If the investigators re-assemble the stones, the fragments join, creating a solid crystal. This crystal as such is harmless.

Investigation brings the investigators to Dr. Hamilton Crabtree, researcher at Miskatonic University. Crabtree offers to expose the crystal to his light cannon, a primitive laser. (If the investigators refuse, he steals them.) Doing so creates a Field of Silence from the Plain of Sound. (The players must then proceed without speaking to each other.)

The Field of Silence continues to expand until the crystal is destroyed. The Beings of Sghluo (from the Plain) send three dimensional shamblers to guard the gateway in advance of their invasion.

3 The investigators notice immediately that the stones are attracted to each other, almost if they were magnetic. As they near joining they give off a wicked energy. They should not be allowed to join or a great explosion occurs.

Research on the hieroglyphs proves them to be of Atlantean origin, a time when wizards fought battles against each other using such devices. If the stones are placed in separate areas, for example, a safe, a drawer and a pocket, they escape and begin to creep together again. The stones can melt through any non-living material to rejoin.

If the investigators decide to allow the stones to join in a remote place, the explosion occurs and is followed by the arrival of a Hunting Horror.

© G W Thomas

Hunting Pink

A Rolls Royce Silver Lady is parked at the side of the road. An elderly chauffeur, uniform jacket removed, struggles to change a flat tyre. A little way along the road stands a well-dressed gentleman, hoping to secure assistance.

Simon Beaumains (Bart) of Clovenford is the epitome of English nobility; intelligent, educated, charming, handsome, his ancestors may be traced back to Norman times. He is a staunch Conservative and a defender of law, order, King and country.

Beaumains is very grateful to anyone who helps the elderly Grimes to change the tyre on his Rolls. Good samaritans (and their friends) receive an invitation to spend a weekend as guests of the Clovenfords. It is impossible to refuse without causing offence.

Astarte Hall is an impressive English manor set in immaculate gardens and rolling wooded English countryside. The nearest civilisation is the small village of Clovenford five miles from the Hall. Once settled at the Hall, the elderly and very infirm Baron Clovenford is ‘wheeled’ in to thank the good samaritans for assisting his son. He invites them to take part in a weekend of hunting and shooting activities, then retires.

Guests arriving for the weekend include a selection of famous socialites, wealthy businessmen, artistes and politicians. As the weather worsens the enormous fireplaces are banked with logs and brandy is served. The after-dinner party ends in the wee small hours with everyone in a fair state of inebriation.

Next morning there is commotion at (late) breakfast. The Baron has been found dead near the enormous outdoor maze. His body appears to have been torn apart by a wild animal and there appear to be cloven hoof footprints around the body. The Baron is laid in state in the cold of the family crypt.

The telephone lines are down due to the still-raging storm. The chauffeur returns with the news that the main road bridge at Clovenford has been swept away during the night. The area is cut off until the storm abates. There is no need to worry as there are supplies aplenty in the cellar and a backup generator in case the electricity lines are knocked out. “Honest, guvnor.”

Possibilities

1 The Clovenford Hunt (of which many of the guests are members) is an archetypal English tradition, hunting foxes on horseback accompanied by hounds. It provides a convenient cover for the cult activities of the Beaumains family who have been associated with The Black Goat of the Woods for hundreds of years.

Their favourite sport is hunting a human. The Beaumains horses are an unusually robust and temperamental breed as they are fed on human flesh in classical Greek tradition. The hounds are likewise barely domesticated wolves.

Last night the old Baron was forcibly removed as Master of the Hunt by his son. The new Baron immediately takes charge of the situation and organises a rather unseemly wake to commemorate his father’s passing. The wake becomes a drunken orgy and soon the Hunt members get into a sporting mood. Tonight is again the dark of the moon and the Master of the Hunt must organise a special feast to celebrate his ascension. This celebration will climax with the summoning of a Dark Young to assist the Hunt in pursuing their prey. Guess who is to be the prey?

2 The Beaumains’ bloodline has been contaminated ever since the British campaigns against Napoleon in Egypt; there is a ghoulish ancestor some way down the family tree. It is a matter of historical record that the Beaumains usually pass quietly with only an obituary in The Times, all the better to cover up their degeneration into ghoul. It is a family duty to take care of the Beaumains’ ghouls (the elders) who live in the extensive family crypts, obtaining a steady supply of recently buried corpses.

The new Baron has been properly schooled by his late father in his duties but the lessons did not take. His studies in Beaumains’ extensive occult library have prompted him to an alternative course of action. The new Baron intends to make use of this family curse by offering immortality to many of the influential guests (who are confidantes of his). The first step for them is to become cannibals, a well-documented method of greatly extending the human lifespan.

The elder Baron refused to accept this idea and so was lured outdoors and killed by his son. The guests in the know all participated in a sorcerous quickening ceremony and had a taste of the Baron. They were scared off by the elders, prowling out of the crypt, who become restless around the time of their regular feeding. Using their own magical means the elders will soon know of the new Baron’s plans and they will not approve.

One of the guests disappears later that day, kidnapped by the elders. The Baron realises what is happening and looks for suitable volunteers to descend into the crypt to deal with the family legacy. He makes a private faux confession of the family legacy in the hope of gaining sympathy and assistance. If the brave volunteers survive the ghouls then the cannibals may have fresh meat that night.

3 For untold years the area known as Clovenford has sheltered a large coven of witches. The witches were persecuted by the Beaumains in the years following the Norman conquest, and since then the coven has been very secretive. Many of the Beaumains males have died by violent means, attributed to a non-existent curse laid by the innocent coven.

The new Baron is in considerable debt due to poor play at the bridge table. Angered by his father’s recent refusal to cover his debts, Simon has taken violent action. The previous evening Simon killed his father using a rather blunt dagger from the Great Hall, spirited the body outside via the hidden stairway in the master bedroom, then faked the animal attack. The cloven hoofprints were made with a family heirloom; a plaster casting of ‘The Devils Footprint’ which sits beneath glass in the study, a curio dated 1867.

Simon plays upon the idea of the Curse of the Beaumains, telling many old family tales to back up his story. He even shows off the curio in the study. Unfortunately, he was seen returning last night by one of the guests, the actress Mary Bartlett, his fiancée. She confronts Simon later that morning within sight of one of our heroes, then an hour later accidentally falls to her death from the second-floor balcony. Simon again speaks of the Curse but this time he is watching carefully.

© Peter Devlin

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Cult Classic

Andrew Garesford, an acquaintance of the characters that lives in a college town, describes an unusual film he has heard is carried at a video store catering to serious cinephiles. The film, called “Christwhore,” is a blasphemous underground work filmed in grainy black-and-white film stock and is about an hour-and-a-half long.

The film chronicles the misadventures of a deformed being of indeterminate gender that wanders through a deserted wasteland populated by shanty towns of unhealthy-looking people. The creature is raped, abused and generally mistreated during a variety of repellent episodes scattered throughout the film. At one point, a miscreant prostitutes the creature to a horde of Commanchero-like bandits. The creature is eventually crucified and pelted with faeces by relatively normal people.

Garesford rents the film out for his friends to watch. The film is located in a dark corner of the store’s basement, which houses the bulk of its shelf space.

After everyone watches the film, Garesford casually mentions an employee at the store that spoke with him. The employee, who has an interest in the occult, seemed to take an interest in his choice of rental.

Garesford later disappears. A casual investigation of the store reveals that “Christwhore” is no longer on the shelf. The store has no record of having ever owned it.

Possibilities

1 “Christwhore” is actually a documentary produced in the future by a time traveller who wants to make a martyr of its “star” and build a religious faith around him. The filmmaker and his accomplices are covertly circulating the film in the present day to build an environment favouring their eventual plans. Regardless of the outcome of any investigation, the characters will lose all memory of the events (other than the disappearance of Garesford) as the result of covert meddling with the flow of time.

2 Garesford has entered an uncharted realm in the Dreamlands. The tape is something he accidentally brought back with him while it was in the form of a book. The viewing of the tape, which does not actually exist in the waking world, occurred in a dream inside the collective unconsciousness of Garesford and the characters.

3 Garesford has met foul play at the hands of a ‘cult’ (actually just a couple of deluded people) who has read a deeper meaning into the film and have stolen it. The film’s disappearance is the work of the odd employee at the store, who used his professional relationship with the store owner to acquire a copy of the rare film and then steal it. The film’s director, who is harmless, has since made it to mainstream Hollywood and directed a big screen thriller that flopped with critics and audiences.

© Brian Woodman

The Iron Crib

Surrounded by old graves, a cast iron cradle appears one night in the middle of the churchyard of the small, coastal village of Hammon. Upon investigation, the crib is found to be deeply rooted in the soil, with iron reaching down into the bedrock. Yet there are no signs of digging or the machinery that must have been needed to install it, and no explanation for its presence.

Possibilities

1 The crib is an avatar of Yig, and is claiming the souls of children. In the town, a statistically significant increase in pregnancies, stillbirths and birth defects may be observed, and snakes begin to plague the town.  A distraught parent of a dead child reports seeing him in the crib, crying and reaching out. In some cases, post-natal depression leads to hysteria and even episodes of psychosis.

One of the graves near the crib contains the corpse of Augustus Prior, who was alleged to have committed unspeakable acts against children early in the previous century. Although nothing was ever proven, the allegations were all true. Prior was buried in the churchyard under protest, and wards were inscribed on the coffin and tombstone. A recent act of vandalism broke the ward on the tombstone, allowing Prior’s spirit to draw his master to the churchyard.

2 A baby, apparently abandoned, is found inside the cradle on the third morning after its discovery.  A local couple agree care for the child while the police investigate her origins. As the days stretch into weeks with no results from the investigation, the new foster parents find their sleep increasingly disturbed by strange nightmares. Friends and acquaintances find them unnaturally and violently over-protective of the child. If the child is not removed from their care, the couple will go insane.

3 An anti-abortion activist group installed the cradle late at night, intending to reveal its involvement only after media speculation had everyone curious. It was initially intended as a gimmick, metaphorically representing the spirits of the unborn. However, the situation has become more sinister - one of the group’s more militant and literal-minded members (and an occultist) performed a ritual on the night of the crib’s installation to invoke a vengeful Demon-Spirit of the Unborn. The ritual required the mutilation of a stillborn infant. Other members of the group are sickened and angered, but are deeply afraid that their own involvement will be revealed if the story comes to light.

© Barbara Robson and Stuart Barrow

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Spare Some Change?

He stands outside the bus station playing badly on a harmonica, it could be “Auld Lang Syne” perhaps. He is bundled in greasy overcoat belted with string and you shudder to think what may be in his pockets. The coat is covered with badges including one with a pyramid and eye, and one bearing the motto “Watch the Skies.” His greying beard is long and unkempt, with “things” in it. His hair is no different.

As he turns his watery eyes towards you an unpleasant, red-blotched bald patch (or is it shaved?) about the size of your hand is clearly visible above his left ear. Moving the harmonica from his mouth, he wheezes at you. “You’ve seen it too, eh? You’ve seen it. You can’t fool me nor them neither, heh heh heh, an’ that’s why their watching you too. They sees everything!”

He nods excitedly in the direction you have come from. Looking back you see two tall, clean-shaven men in dark suits and shades; they could be watching him, or they may be watching you.

Possibilities

1 Robert Beauchamp was a former rising star scientist in the government defence programme. He dropped out (ethical differences) and disappeared. The government has finally tracked him down and considers him a security risk. The men in black are government agents who intend to apprehend Robert, after ascertaining the extent and nature of his real or imagined contacts. They monitor everyone that Robert takes an unusual interest in. As far as the investigators are concerned, this might prove disastrous.

2 In hunting for pickings in the bins outside a corporate office late one night, Robert heard a strange and unearthly wailing. Peering through a window he witnessed corporate officials engaging in some kind of communion with an eldritch being. He fled in terror but was filmed by a security camera. As the players chance on him, corporate agents are moving to abduct and silence him. If he never gets a chance to speak about what he saw, the only clue to where he had been is some crumpled office stationary bearing the company logo in his filthy pockets.

3 Robert suffers from amnesia. The marks on his head are the results of experiments he has suffered at the hands of cultists who held him prisoner and tortured him for extended periods. He has no idea how he escaped – or even that he was ever tortured. Robert has been arrested several times, and his scars have piqued the curiosity of a secret government department responsible for investigating strange phenomena. The suited watchers are from that organisation but do everything to disguise their motives and employer. They are observing Robert to see whom he contacts and, perhaps more importantly, who contacts him.