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Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Wall of Bones

Unique in England, the carefully-stacked wall of bones, almost 7ft high by 5ft wide, divides the cavernous crypt into two aisles, stretching into the gloom. To either side, shelves full of human skulls cram the walls from floor to vaulted roof. Records of the crypt can be traced back for centuries, but there is some confusion over the origin of its contents. Some say that the bones came from the numerous battlefields around the area, others are of the opinion that the bones were exhumed from a plague-pit.

The guardian of the crypt is an elderly monk; he is slightly hunched and slow in his mannerisms, his face hidden by a heavy cowled robe. He rarely speaks but instead nods and points to items of interest. The public who pay to see the bones think it`s all part of the act. Indeed, his eccentricity adds to the popularity of the crypt as a gruesome tourist attraction. There is an elaborately carved chair near the bones - for a small fee people are allowed to sit in the chair and pose for their holiday photos.

Possibilities

1 An eroded, easily missed sigil carved on the keystone of the arched entrance may be recognised as a representation of Anubis, Egyptian protector of the dead. In the shadows at the back of the crypt there is a door bearing the same sigil. It leads into one of the oldest ghoul colonies in England, established beneath a barrow built when the Phoenicians first reached England's South coast. The guardian is a changeling, appointed to watch over the gateway. The wall of bones has been slowly growing over the years and all cemeteries within a day's march have been robbed of bodies. Tourists are a minor disadvantage of such a palatial entrance-hall.

2 During a group tour of the crypt, the guardian shows unusual interest in one of the visitors, although he still hides his face and does not speak. He eventually backs off, and they leave no wiser. Over the next few days, the visitor becomes the focus of poltergeist activity - subtle at first, but with increasing intensity. During this time the guardian may be seen in the vicinity - but disappears if anyone approaches him.

The bones were recovered from a mass grave for Medieval plague victims. In the 17th century the bones were moved from the plague-pit to the crypt. However, the souls of the dead, angry at their inhuman treatment after death, have manifested as the guardian to point out their fate to the living. The guardian's interest arises because the visitor was wearing an item of jewellery, a family heirloom that the guardian recognises.

3 The bones are from a Medieval plague pit. However, the 18th century chair is something far more sinister. A few people who take the seat are later dogged by nightmares and hallucinations. They believe that they have the plague, and are covered with open sores and boils that drive them to distraction. Eventually, the hallucinations draw them back to the crypt where they disappear.

The guardian is a soul-eater, draining the souls of people who sit in his chair. He projects images of the plague drawn from the bones to drag his victims back to the crypt. He must strap his victims into the chair overnight to feed properly, which he does once each lunar month. Those who succumb are never found - the soul-eater sucks them dry and places their bones with the rest.

Inspired by the crypt of St. Leonard's Church, Hythe, Kent

© Helen Rich

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Voyage of the Empress

Booking cheap passage across the Atlantic has drawn the investigators to the converted cargo liner the Dragon Empress. Own by the mysterious but influential Chang Wei Saisong, the ship makes money moving bulk cargo, low cost no questions asked guest accommodations, and some customs personnel suspect more than that.

The ship hosts several shady characters, ranging from desperate aristocrats fallen on hard times and looking to start anew to criminals running from the authorities. Cabin doors are seldom left unlocked aboard the Empress. Early in the voyage, Saisong’s second in command, a half Dutch half Chinaman named Abelard suffers a violent episode, convulsions, speaking in tongues, and the like.

Midways through the trip Abelard suffers a second bout of convulsions, this time the fit ends with Abelard grabbing Saisong’s sidearm and organizing a mutiny aboard the ship.

Possibilities

1 Abelard is simply an undiagnosed epileptic and his fits have no real pattern or meaning behind them. Saisong has been short changing and underpaying his crewmen and this has created a large deal of hostility between the crew and captain. If the Investigators don’t try to defuse the situation, Saisong with try through force and instigate a shoot-out on the bridge in which several people are wounded and Saisong himself killed.

2 Abelard is a drug addict, and Saisong has been making a large fortune by moving Asian opium into Europe by smuggling it across the US and then aboard the Dragon Empress. The confrontation is Abelard’s play for power to gain control of the lucrative Dragon Road, the opium highway across America. Abelard’s fits are caused by his reckless use of more than one drug.

3 Saisong has been moving highly questionable items aboard his ship, many of which connected with the mythos. Unbeknownst to Saisong, Abelard has been spending too much time around these artifacts and has been reading the books that come across on the ship before they are sold in Europe. Thoroughly insane, Abelard plans to hijack the Dragon Empress and enact a ritual that allow his to take the ship to dreaded R’leyh.

© Jared Lain

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Featherbrains

Archie Haversham, rich gadabout and amateur naturalist, wants a great auk carcass. (The auk is a flightless seabird that resembles a penguin. It became extinct in the late 19th century, but rumour has it that colonies of the birds might still exist in some inaccessible spot. Stuffed specimens and skins fetched astronomical prices; in the early 20th century, a specimen could be worth as much as £350.)

Haversham has heard that Ivor Oleg, an arctic explorer, has a stuffed auk for sale. Oleg is asking £400 for it. Oleg is also dropping hints that he knows of a colony of auks near the Arctic Circle that until now have avoided contact with man. Haversham is desperate to conclude the Auk deal, but he is bedridden with a broken leg and can’t conduct the negotiations himself. Someone will have to go in his place.

Possibilities

1 Oleg is a thief. He stole the auk carcass, and several other things, from Martin Ponsonby, another rich naturalist. Ponsonby is a paranoiac. To him, Oleg’s theft isn’t just a theft. It’s part of a grand conspiracy to steal Ponsonby’s life’s work. In addition, people who buy the auk from Oleg aren’t just unfortunate dupes to Ponsonby. They’re all in on the plot. Ponsonby’s attitude is that his enemies must be destroyed, (socially and legally, not murdered), and he has dispatched private investigators to recover the auk and gather dirt on his foes.

2 Oleg is selling a genuine auk. However, he also wants to con Haversham into funding another Arctic expedition. To that end, Oleg will spin tales of auk colonies hidden away in the inaccessible regions of the world. Oleg will try any story if he thinks it will get him funding. If the investigators hint that they might be interested in, say, hidden temples to forgotten gods lost somewhere in the Arctic snows, Oleg will be more than happy to tell lies about such things.

3 Oleg has been driven insane because of his contact with alien gods deep in the Arctic wastes. He thinks it is his duty to gather victims for the Old Ones. He uses the auk carcass and his story of more auks out in the arctic to gain funding for another expedition. Oleg intends to be the only survivor of this expedition. The others will be left for the God to devour. Oleg has other specimens from his last trip to show to prospective buyers. Fragments of tablet with strange inscriptions, odd carved statuettes made from whalebone, and other odd things that might alert Mythos scholars that Oleg found more than auks on his last trip out.

© Adam Gauntlett

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Blown Glass

A small package marked FRAGILE arrives at an investigator’s home. Picking up the parcel immediately reveals that the contents have been smashed. Opening the box reveals a short letter and shards of green glass.

The package has been sent by Bartholomew J Perkins (an acquaintance or colleague) from Hokkaido, Japan. As the note reveals, the box contained a glass float used by fishermen to anchor their nets. Perkins hopes that the gift has arrives intact.

Possibilities

1 The ball is the product of the deep ones, constructed during an ancient war with the fire vampires. The globe was discovered by Japanese fishermen and used innocently for years.

The globe contained a special powder which retards open flame – such as that required for heating and cooking. The powder is released when the investigator opens the box. The phenomena is unusual, but not too alarming – until the fire vampires arrive. They have been drawn by the ancient weapon, and are spoiling for a fight.

Only the complete immersion of the box in water and thorough cleaning of the house prevents the fire vampires from returning.

2 The globe is a teleportation device. If the globe is reconstructed (it fits together like a jigsaw) it begins to glow. All those in the room are caught in a stunning blast of energy.

The investigators find themselves in another room, one with wooden floors and paper walls. They are on the island of Hokkaido, the globe is in shards again. Perkins is waiting for them, along with several black-robed figures. They smile, draw long knives and move forward . . .

3 The globe is the broken prison of an oriental demon. Assembling it causes it to expand and open like a shell. From the shell emerges a strange Asian woman. She is tall, green-eyed and dressed in silks. Then she disappears.

The woman is a cat demon named Hosatsu. She knows much about the occult and torments male investigators in their sleep. If she can be befriended, Hosatsu proves to be a powerful ally. Unfortunately. Hosatsu’s affections are very tiring, and although the investigator goes to bed earlier and earlier, he never gets enough sleep.

If Hosatsu is spurned she becomes hateful and dangerous, attacking the investigator while he is dreaming. Hosatsu can only be destroyed by an enchanted jade dagger, which research reveals must be held by the sleeper. Learning this, and then finding a suitable dagger, may not be an easy task. Battle with Hosatsu takes place in dream state, but the wounds she inflicts are all too real.

© G W Thomas

Saturday, 30 September 2017

A Family's Heritage

A close friend’s family has, for hundreds of years, owned a homestead in a sylvan mountainscape. However, their neighbours watch carefully because there is supposed to be a curse on the family.

It is said, that every 40 – 50 years one family-member suffers from an extreme change in personality.

There is also a story of an ancient hideout in a cave nearby. Is there an association?

Possibilities

1 The family has always bred strong dreamers, and a long time ago they created an access to the dreamlands in the cave. This door leads to the enchanted wood, wherein family-members are welcomed by the Zoog. This secret is passed on from one door-keeper to another. (The ability to physically enter the dreamlands is a closely guarded secret.)

The change in personality occurs when the door-keeper hands over to a new keeper. The new door-keeper, upon experiencing the dreamlands, becomes more filial, is happier, lets loose of covenants, but gains friends, and has wonderful fairy tales to tell.

2 The family was once genetically altered by the mi-go (the cave is an entrance to one of their mines). It is written in the family’s genetic constitution, that one family member guards the cave.

When the existing guard dies (normally of old age), then the genetic manipulation kicks in, affecting one of the existing family members who then retreat to a cabin near the cave where they remain on guard for the rest of their life.

3 One of the ancestors made a contract with Yog-Sothoth, he refused to bring the appropriate victim and so the Key and the Gate cursed the family. Every fifty years he absorbs one of the family.

Every fifty years one of the family dies of an unknown disease, which leaves their body mummified glistening like mother of pearls.

In a secret corner of the family’s hideout is the heritage, which provides the means to the end of this horror.

© Jochen Koltermann

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