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Friday, July 31

Evil Stars: Part 5 – Billy Smash!

Bekleys Auto Repair appeared to be just another small shop on Toronto’s south side. With its crumbling facade and dirty windows, few people gave the store more than a passing glance. Inside, the repair shop looked even worse, with its peeling wallpaper, creaking floorboards and layers of dust thick enough for mice to ski on.

Many of the people in the neighborhood wondered how Tom and Rose Bekley could support themselves with the meager few customers who wandered in every few weeks. Naturally, the police checked by occasionally to make sure the Bekleys weren’t selling drugs, or fencing stolen goods. But everything was legal and quite innocuous. The auto parts worked even if they were highly overpriced. There just weren’t any customers.

However, Tom and Rose secretly worked for Majestic-12. Green Box #14 was a standard example of the storage facilities maintained by the Majestic-12 janitorial staff.

Jim-Bean and Hammer dragged Billy into the room between them. A nervous Star entered accompanied by Archive.

Hammer nodded at Tom. Tom nodded back and flicked a supposedly “broken” light switch behind the counter. It opened a reader for a Majestic-12 cistron in the bathroom.

Hammer held up his cistron to the reader. The wall slid back to reveal a hidden passage that led to a small elevator. They clambered into it.

The elevator descended one hundred and forty feet down into the sub-sub-basement. The center floor of the warehouse had a small elevator capable of moving a six-foot square box. Below were three work areas.

They dragged Billy to the labs. The small testing and processing lab was common to Green Box facilities. A workshop filled the remaining space. It was stocked with raw materials and electronic replacement parts. At the end of the room were three ten-foot by ten-foot specialty rooms with double airtight doors. They trussed Billy up, upside down, hanging from a hook in the holding tank. Hammer replaced Billy’s plastic handcuffs with steel-alloy manacles. When they were sure he was secure, they closed and locked the massive door.

Archive scribed something in chalk on the doorway.

“What’s that?” asked Jim-Bean.

“A ward,” said Archive. “Just in case.” [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 10 – The Black Room

Ebony paint covered the walls and ceiling of this room. A sable carpet covered the floor. The scent of henbane, assaofetida, and hellebore root filled the room. All the furniture in the room was lacquered black.

A hulking black monstrosity with a string of gleaming yellow eyes dotting either side of its head lunged at the open door.

Beldin rushed forward, driving his shield into the thing’s mouth to keep it bay. Vlad came in quickly behind.

They were trapped in a stalemate. The beast’s massive claws threatened Beldin, but it was too distracted by the shield lodged in its mouth. Its jaws were massive and corded; Beldin’s shield groaned under the weight.

“Do something!” shouted Beldin. [MORE]

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Thursday, July 30

The Evil Stars: Part 4 – Billy’s Club

A tall, muscular man entered with a pig-like squint to his eyes. He's dressed in the traditional riding leathers of a biker, complete with Satan's Sadists vest. He was huge and muscular, with python-like arms, a bald head covered by a do-rag, and bristling with hostility. In one arm was a fire ax, and a shotgun was in the other. The entire bar went silent when he entered.

“Billy,” said Hammer. He drew his pistols, unnoticed.

“Uh, excuse me suh,” said the owner, a small, shifty-looking tcho-tcho. “No weapons allowed he—“

Billy put the shotgun to the tcho-tcho’s head and pulled the trigger. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 9b – The Green Room

Vlad, Sebastian, and Beldin entered the room just in time to see the green giant dispatch the frost salamander.

“If you’re tough enough to try out my game, come here quickly and claim the weapon!” exclaimed the giant. “I give up all rights; he will get it for keeps.”

Beldin and Vlad looked at each other in disbelief.

"Hah! Where have your pride and your power gone, your bragging boasts, your big words? Your little invisible friend still tries to circumvent me, but it will do no good!”

He let out a laugh so loud that Vlad winced with shame; the blood shot to his flushed face and churned with rage and raised a storm until his heart burned.

"Look here, have you lost your mind?” asked Vlad. “Hand me that axe -- I will grant you the gift you beg me to give!"

Vlad lifted the axe from the giant’s hand.

The giant advanced while Vlad held the axe, both hands on the haft, hefted it sternly, considered his stroke. That burly giant bulked big and tall, a head higher than Vlad. He stood there hard-faced, stroking his beard, impassively watching as he pulled off his coat, no more moved or dismayed by his mighty swings than anybody would be if somebody brought him a bottle of wine.

Beldin put one hand out. “Wait. This is a giant. He’s offering an axe. Give it to me.”

Vlad handed the axe to the dwarf. [MORE]

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Tuesday, July 28

Evil Stars: Part 3 – Enter the Dragon

Toronto's Chinatown district was south of their hotel, bounded roughly by the thoroughfares of Dundas, Spadina, Queen, and College. Markets, restaurants, curio shops, newsstands, and other places of business dotted the streets, decorating the area with colorful signs--mostly in Chinese. Those of Chinese descent thronged the streets: live fish swam about in window-side tanks; orange- and red-necked barbecued duck and pork hung weirdly in restaurant and market windows: produce stands overflowed with fresh vegetables and fragrant fruits.

The newish Black Dragon Restaurant & Lounge was located in the heart of Chinatown, on Dundas Street. The large establishment featured Tcho-Tcho cuisine, previously unfamiliar to gourmets in the area and something of a hit with those who took dining seriously.

The restaurant exterior was painted a flamboyant gold and red: the green and black inferior was decorated with dragon statues, lanterns, Tcho-Tcho throwing spears, oddly wriggling octopus-like creatures, and so on. Whether the agents arrive for dinner, they ended up waiting in the lounge.

“Tcho-tchos,” said Jim-Bean with a sigh. “You know what we’re going to have to do, don’t you?”

Archive took the bait. “What?”

“Burn it down,” said Jim-Bean. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 9a – The Green Room

Kham skidded into yet another colored room, this one painted green. An emerald-colored carpet covered the floor. The scent of sandlewood, roses and musk filled the room.

A giant man stood in the center of the room. His body was brawny as any can be, so bull-necked, big-thighed, bulky and square, so long-legged, large-limbed, looming so tall. Kham wasn’t sure if he was half-troll or merely as large as living man could be -- a handsome one too

“Don’t tell me,” said Kham. “This is the green room.” [MORE]

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Monday, July 27

07/23. Isolating the fear

The Horror is upon us again, and we're All Alone. Every gamer for himself!

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Friday, July 24

Evil Stars: Part 2 – Zymvotek

The biotechnology firm Zymvotek was a five-minute drive away. The agents pulled into a new industrial park, one of those campus-like affairs, with freshly-dyed grass and newly-purchased trees. They stopped before a silver-and-black, block-long building with a twelve -foot-high orange “Z” looming beside the main entrance.

The guards directed them to a loading dock, where they were greeted by two people in white lab coats, far down the side of the building. They passed out visitor passes to everyone.

“Oh great,” said Hammer. “It’s your girlfriend.”

“Not. My. Girlfriend,” said Jim-Bean through gritted teeth.

Dr. Lisa Howell had improved her looks since they last met, changing her haircut and even putting on makeup. She was cute, in a geek girl sort of way.

She smiled at Jim-Bean as the other lab assistant trundled the thing out of the back of the van. It began squealing again.

“So you got transferred, huh?” asked Jim-Bean, trying to make polite conversation and get Howell to stop smiling at him.

He was being polite; Howell was running a virtual reality server on a crystal matrix AI. It had nearly cost Howell her life. The saving grace was that the entire server system had been destroyed by the FRACTAL GODS virus, so there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Still, Majestic-12 punished any failure, including being in the wrong place at the right time. Her transfer to the opposite coast was a mild slap on the wrist.

Howell nodded. “At Zymvotek, we mostly study the commercial possibilities of bacteria—as food for humans, of course, and that's how the company began, but also as oil-eaters, selenium-fixers, mineral-concentrators, that sort of thing. Until a few weeks ago we had a division dedicated to cosmetics tests on animals. Everyone was glad to halt those tests, and the facilities are still intact: Corporate doesn’t know what to do with them until next year’s budget plan is complete. We can use this area for several months without interference: I've already gotten the space allocation."

They entered a large room, silent and empty except for lab benches, utility connections, and stacked rows of gleaming stainless steel cages numbering in the hundreds.

Howell’s chatter ended abruptly when the assistant removed the tarpaulin and she actually saw the creature in the cylinder. Her jaw dropped in delight.

"Sprague said this was something special, but I could never have dreamed of this! This is no recombinant product, gentlemen." she chuckled happily to herself, and began to make plans. Jim-Bean was abruptly forgotten.

“Have fun,” said Hammer. “In the mean time, we need to track down that biker gang. They somehow knew what we had in the truck. That means there’s a leak.”

Archive nodded. “I looked it up. Those bikers were members of Satan’s Sadists. They’re also security for God’s Lost Children—“

“GLC?” asked Jim-Bean. “One of those guys was wearing a shirt with GLC on it.”

Archive nodded. “God’s Lost Children. Harking back to such elaborate ’70s rock acts as KISS, Pink Floyd, and Alice Cooper, God’s Lost Children is as much a visual tour de force as an act of pure sonic aggression — which is exactly why their handlers at Grandeur Records have pumped millions of dollars into making the band one of the top acts in the world. Through constant media exposure, the whole process has taken less than six months.”

“I remember them,” said Hammer. “We played their record backwards…”

“Secrets of N’Kai,” said Archive, nodding along with Hammer. “That’s how we defeated that statue of Tsathoggua—“

“Sorry, what?” asked Jim-Bean.

“You weren’t there,” they said in unison.

Jim-Bean shrugged. “Oh.” [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 8 – The Blue Room

The walls and ceiling of the room they entered were painted blue. The floor was covered with an azure colored carpet. The incense of cedar, saffron, and ambergris filled the room. Miscellaneous furniture, all dyed blue, was scattered about the room.

“I’m sensing a pattern here,” said Kham.

A hulking blue humanoid, trailing cold mist from its jagged maw, advanced on them.

“What the hell is that?” asked Vlad.

“I don’t know, but it’s going to be sorry it tangled with us,” said Beldin.

The room was freezing. The creature reared back and took a deep breath.

“Behind me!” shouted Beldin. [MORE]

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Thursday, July 23

Want to Publish My Novels?

I'm looking for a publisher for three novels (action horror, YA fantasy, epic fantasy) of over 80,000 words each. Here are the descriptions for each:

DUN (action horror): Combining Japanese-style viral horror with the creeping dread of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, Dun posits the question: What if years of subliminal advertising could be subverted to drive you mad? An unwitting couple, struggling to determine the future of their long-distance relationship, discovers the answer on a cruise ship when a video that drives people crazy is unleashed. It’s up to the FBI to get to the bottom of the conspiracy before the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign releases the video on its final target: the world’s biggest conference center in Salt Lake City.

AWFULLY FAMILIAR (YA fantasy): Scrap is a rat with nothing but his wits and the magical ability to speak with animals and people. Escaping his captors, he begins a long journey to discover his origins as a human boy. Along the way, he befriends Durga the Rat Queen, a will-o’-wisp named Will (of course), Lycus the pickpocket, Baba Yaga, and his best friend Switch. Untangling his secret past, Scrap discovers a magical conspiracy that just might save the fate of the kingdom itself.

THE WELL OF STARS (epic fantasy): Filled with macabre humor, high sorcery, and an epic quest, The Well of Stars follows the adventures of three unlikely protagonists dragged into a plague-ridden war after the original heroes failed. It features a quirky necromanceress, a one-eyed prince with memory loss, a former opera-singer turned zombie, a snooty elf with terrible aim, an incomprehensible dwarf, a ranger who couldn't track his way out of a box, and snowboarding Eskimos. Along the way, a woman with a knack for zombies and a man who can’t see straight might just find true love and save the world.

Interested? Contact me at http://michael.tresca.net.

posted by Michael Tresca at 10:33 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Evil Stars: Part 1 – The Inevitable Happens

Hammer, Jim-Bean, and Archive drove down a large black truck down a four-lane thoroughfare--two lanes each northeast and southwest—past dusty commercial offices and light industry.

“You see that?” asked Jim-Bean, looking back over his shoulder out the window.

“What?” asked Hammer, eyes on the road.

“Motorcycles. Lots of ‘em.”

The thrum of motorcycle engines was suddenly all around them.

Three motorcycles pulled up on either side of them. Each motorcycle was driven by a massive biker wearing leathers, a beard, sunglasses, dangling skull-and-crossbones earrings, confederate flag patches, imitation Iron Crosses, and handlebars that end in spiked mace heads. All of the biker gang wore jackets with a cartoon face of Satan flanked by Capital S’s on their backs. One biker-man's T-shirt read “GLC”.

Riding behind two of the bikers were tough-looking young blondes dressed less remarkably. Each woman carried a medium-sized flat box with the butt end propped against her right thigh. One biker-woman's pants had a two-inch circle carefully cut in the seat, through which showed skin and a neatly-tattooed yellow triskelion.

“Hammer,” said Archive, “there’s a black van in front and behind us—“

The truck jolted as the van behind them hit its bumper. The van in front began to slow down.

“They’re boxing us in!” shouted Hammer. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 7 – Card Room

“Thank you,” was all Sebastian said.

Kham rose to his feet. The effort to blast Camilla from Sebastian’s body had nearly collapsed him. “It’s a scary place inside your head.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” came the muffled reply. “Are you sure you still want to see this room? It holds a fated deck of cards. When I turned the card, it did…not go well.”

Beldin pushed open the door. “I want to see what fate will deal me.”

Vlad agreed and entered behind him.

Kham shrugged. “I’m done with games of chance, especially in this place.”

The walls of the room were wood paneled and a plush carpet covered the floor. A number of card tables and wooden chairs were scattered around the room. Sitting behind a table in the middle of the room was a matronly woman dressed like a gypsy. On the table in front of her were ten cards, face down. The cards were arranged in two rows of five cards each.

As soon as the door opened, the woman said, “Welcome, come in, come in. The cards know all. The cards see all. Make yourselves comfortable. Who’ll be the first to choose a card? Pick a card, any card.”

Beldin sat down in front of the woman. He jutted his lower lip out while he considered which card to pick. Then he drew one and looked at it. [MORE]

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Wednesday, July 22

Evil Stars: Prologue

Jatik handed Archive a computer printout.

“Dear Mr. Jatik,” read Archive aloud. “This situation is so upsetting to me that I am unable to work effectively. I really don't know how to reply to your questions. There are so many things to explain, and so many places I could start. Now that I have raised the issue, I need a few days to compose a methodical presentation which you can use to create a plan of action. Per the enclosed exhibit, please follow the instructions carefully. It has to do with the work being done here. Enough of these things have died that I can fake the death of one more.”

Archive hesitated. “There’s a paragraph entitled ‘feeding instructions.’”

Jatik nodded sagely. Hammer encouraged Archive to keep reading.

He shrugged and continued. “The specimen currently eats a diet of 6 parts raw hamburger, 4 parts freshly-killed flies, and 1 part bone meal, in the total amount of 1 kg per 10 kg of body mass. It does not appear to ingest liquids directly, though a colleague believes that it does in higher humidity. Since acquisition, it has grown slowly—weight it weekly and increase feedings proportionately.”

“What eats freshly killed flies?” asked Hammer.

Jatik cleared his throat. “Dr. Gall disappeared approximately a week ago. His dented and damaged car was found abandoned al Seacliff Palisades Park, in a quiet residential neighborhood. Based on evidence found in the car, the police believe that Gall committed suicide. They make that guess mostly from the evidence of Tail's car. I can supply the name of the detective in charge of the case. Sgt. Jack Bolling."

“So someone killed him to shut him up? What did he give you, Jatik?” asked Hammer.

"The affair is even stranger than you may be guessing,” said Jatik. He uttered a brief command into a phone, and two aides pushed in a short dolly. It bore a crate covered by a tarpaulin.

Jatik dismissed the two men. As he swept back the covering. Jatik couldn’t refrain from a flourish, but his "Tah-dah" was flat and ominous, as it might be: inside wriggled an eighteen-inch-high tentacle THING.

As soon as the tarpaulin was lifted, the thing leaped across the container towards Hammer in a single lunge, squeaking fiercely, its tentacles gripping the sides of the cylinder in a fruitless effort to snag such toothsome food.

The creature was in a travel container, a Plexiglas cylinder about a yard wide and a yard high, walls an inch thick, closed at either end by stout hydraulic clamps and double-latched. A few breathing holes broke the seal.

“What the hell is that?” asked Hammer. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 6b – The Throne Room

“I have enfolded Yhtill,” said the King in Yellow, “and the Phantom of Truth is laid.” He spoke more quietly. “Henceforth, the ancient lies will rule as always…” The King turned to Cassilda. “Now. Cassilda!”

Cassilda rose mutely to her knees.

“Thou wert promised a Dynasty by Truth, and in truth shalt thou have a dynasty,” said the King. “The Kingdom of Hastur was first in all the world, and would have ruled the world, except for this: Carcosa did not want it. Hence, thereafter, Hastur and Arcanis divided; but those in Arcanis sent you from Aldebaran the Phantom of Truth and all was lost; together, you forgot the Covenant of the Sign. Now there is much which needs to be undone.”

“How, King?” Naotabla asked faintly. “How?

“Henceforth, Hastur and Arcanis will be divided forever. Forever shalt thou contend for mastery, and strive in bitter blood to claim which shall be uppermost: flesh or phantom, black or white. In due course of starwheels, this strife will come to issue; but not now; oh, no, not now.”

“And—until then?” whispered Cassilda.

“Until then, Carcosa will vanish; but my rule, I tell you now, is permanent, despite Aldebaran. Be warned. Also be promised: He who triumphs in this war shall be my—can I be honest?—inheritor, and so shall have the Dynasty back. But think: Already you own the world. The great query is: Can you rule it? The query is the gift. The King in Yellow gives it in your hands, to hold … or to let loose. Choose, terrible children.”

“You are King, and are most gracious,” said Naotalba faintly. “We thank you.”

“YOU thank ME?” The King drew himself up, indignant. “I am the living god! Bethink thyself, priest. There is a price, I have not as yet stated the half of it.”

Everyone waited, petrified.

“The price is: The fixing of the Mask.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, July 21

The Evil Stars: Introduction

This story hour is from “The Evil Stars” in Cthulhu Now by the late Keith Herber. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

  • Game Master: Michael Tresca (http://michael.tresca.net)
  • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
  • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://jeremyrobertortiz.blogspot.com)
  • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast/Dedicated Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster

Despite the fact that I wrote scenarios months in advance, sometimes I get caught by surprise. And this session, the players finished the previous scenario faster than I anticipated. I had my notes, so we dove right into the next one. The challenge was that I knew we wouldn’t finish the second scenario, so I had to find a natural break. Fortunately, this scenario does just that.

The Evil Stars is a scenario loaded with cheese. It features an evil rock band who makes a deal with dark mythos forces in the most complicated way imaginable. God’s Lost Children, whom I introduced in a much earlier scenario, uses its tours across the U.S. to lead the crowd in a mystical chant that in turn empowers standing stones. The chant idea is actually pretty cool – the notion that a major death metal star is hiring cement trucks to build massive standing stones at each concert isn’t nearly as a cool. But far be it from me to shrink from a challenge. I can only go to this “heavy metal really is evil” well so many times, so I crammed it full of every cliché I could think of.

First, we actually start with the biker gang, Satan’s Sadists, as part of the At Your Door campaign. This is a nice introduction to the gang and gives the agents a reason to care what they’re up to. After the gang attempts (and fails) to steal the baby dark young they were transporting to a Majestic-12 front company, the agents get a lead on the gang. They’re not hard to follow, since they’re security for God’s Lost Children.

But I didn’t stop there. I shifted Star’s role to a much more important one, turned Billy into a killing machine, and created a narrative that took a page from Terminator: Star wants to snitch on Satan’s Sadists, but it’s up to the agents to retrieve her. And when Brianne (changed from Brian, because I have a rock star female figure) Lochnar of God’s Lost Children finds out, she calls in his Mythos favor to set Billy on her trail. What ensues is a long string of violent interludes that culminates in a battle of the bands. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 6a – The Throne Room

The walls of the throne room were covered with mosaics depicting courtly scenes. The floor was polished marble. Two thrones sit atop a raised dais. At the east end of the room a red velvet carpet ran from the double doors to the thrones.

“Now this I recognize,” said Kham.

A skeletal figure sat on one of thrones. The skeletons were dressed in rotting velvet. One held a jeweled mace. Twenty more skeletons stood on guard, ten each along the north and south walls.

“I don’t remember skeletons in the play,” said Beldin.

The guards wore rusted armor and carried halberds with rusted blades. Another dozen skeletons, wearing decayed court dress, stood in front of the thrones. The skeletons’ bones were fused by the devastation so that they stood in rigid poses, a courtier bowing, a lady leaning sideways to gossip, and so on.

“You’re right,” said Kham. “This is after the fact.” He looked at Sebastian. “And let me guess. You’re the Stranger, right?”

Sebastian took to the air, huge bat wings flapping. There was a shimmering translucent aura about him.

Kham squinted. It had a vaguely feminine shape. He suddenly understood what Sebastian was trying to tell him: where Queen and Prophet meet. Literally. It was…

”Cassilda!” shouted Kham. “Let him go!” [MORE]

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Monday, July 20

Castle Ambrose: Part 5 – The Wild Hunt

“That billy goat looked familiar,” said Vlad.

Kham nodded. “They’re ibixians. Wilfred Gresty and his cult were using them as sacrifices to summon Tizzhet.”

“Didn’t he mention he had brothers?” said Beldin.

Suddenly, a hill to their left burst open and several ibixians riding byakhee flew out of it.

“Get down!” shouted Vlad. [MORE]

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Saturday, July 18

Castle Ambrose: Part 4 – The Fountain of Death

In the center of the indoor forest was a circular pool of water. A stream that wandered through the forest fed the pool.

“Beldin,” Kham warned the dwarf, “I don’t care how tempting that chest looks, don’t touch it.”

In the middle of the pool was a fountain shaped like three interlinked gargoyles. The gargoyles sprayed water from their mouths. Embedded at the base of the trio of statues was the lid of a padlocked metal chest.

“It could be important,” said Beldin. “We should open it just to be sure.”

“It’s a trap,” said Kham. “How could it not be a trap? Everything in this place is a trap.”

“Fine.” Beldin crossed his arms. “But I think it’s a mistake.”

“Hey boss!” shouted Skiz, wiggling through the keyhole to the chest. “There’s a silver key in here!”

Kham double-checked his haversack. His pet rat had run over to the fountain during their argument. “Damn it Skiz! Get out of there!” [MORE]

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Friday, July 17

Castle Ambrose: Part 3 – The Billygoat’s Woe

“So, I don’t suppose you know how to get out of here?” asked Kham.

Sebastian, wearing a featureless pallid mask, shook his head. “He flees where queen and prophet meet, where twin suns fall but never set, escapes the tomb of lost Carcosa…”

“You know if you didn’t have the same bat wings and fireballs I wouldn’t be sure it was you under that mask. But it is you, right?”

Sebastian nodded.

“Now what?” grumbled Beldin. He was still grumpy about being eaten by a tree.

“We follow the path, of course!” Kham grinned.

They came to a ten-foot wide wooden bridge that spanned a meandering stream. The path continued across the bridge. On the side of the bridge closest to them was a humanoid with the head and horns of a billy goat.

"Who's that tripping over my bridge?" roared a voice beneath the bridge.

"Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff, and I'm going up to the hillside to make myself fat," said the billy goat, with such a small voice.

"Now, I'm coming to gobble you up," said the thing beneath the bridge.

"Oh, no! Pray don't take me. I'm too little, that I am," said the billy goat. "Wait a bit till the second Billy Goat Gruff comes. He's much bigger."

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Vlad. [MORE]

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Thursday, July 16

Black Guard: Conclusion

Jim-Bean, Hammer, and Archive walked slowly out of the house, backwards, weapons on the ground.

“We’re with CIFA,” said Hammer. “My badge is on the ground.”

The cops grabbed their badges and cuffed them while they checked out their identification.

Nina Juarez was at the ready, this time with a camera crew.

“Agent Grange,” she said, “we’ve gotten reports that Dr. Bitterich was seen at Revie’s Retreat, a funeral home. Was his death a hoax?”

“I don’t know,” said Hammer, looking a little pale. “You tell me.”

“If they saw Bitterich,” said Archive, frowning, “then that means…” he caught himself when Nina swung the camera to face him.

“What was that?” The floodlight beamed onto Archive’s sweaty face.

Archive smiled and whispered something.

The camera popped and sparked as the floodlight went out. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 2 – The Forest of Doom

Kham lay on the ground.

“So I think I’m in grass now. Are we outside?”

They had managed to close the door behind them. Whatever things were stalking them in the hallway before were not willing to venture beyond.

“Not quite,” said Beldin. Vlad and Beldin’s vision had cleared faster than Kham’s. “We seem to be in some sort of indoor forest. It’s a huge octagon-shaped building with seven domes.”

“That’s interesting.” Kham rolled over, enjoying the feel of sunlight on his skin. “Let’s just wait here until my vision comes back.”

“IF it comes back,” said Vlad.

Kham ignored him. “Describe it to me.”

Beldin looked up. “The domes are nearly a hundred feet high. Looks like they’re made of thick panes of clear glass that let sunlight filter into the garden forest. Lots of trees, plants, grasses, and bushes.”

“I can hear water,” said Kham.

“Yep, a stream,” said Vlad. “There’s a path too.”

They lay there for a long moment in silence.

“Uh, boss?”

“Yeah, Skiz?”

“I couldn’t help but notice that we seem to be moving closer to the trees.”

Kham sat up. “What?” [MORE]

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Tuesday, July 14

Black Guard: Part 10 – Dead Rising

There was a slam, and then the door burst open. Two men entered wearing badges on dark black overcoats.

“This is the police,” shouted a blonde man in an overcoat. “Put your weapons down!”

Hammer held up his badge. “I am Counter-Intelligence Field Agent. You put your weapon down!”

“I am Detective Martin and you have no jurisdiction here! This is my crime scene! Now put your weapons down!”

Jim-Bean, who had run over to check on Archive, squinted at the dark-haired man behind Martin. “Revinowitz? What’s the forensic examiner doing here?”

Martin fired his pistol, missing Hammer. Hammer retaliated, but bullets sparked off an invisible force field around them.

“Hammer, get ready!” Jim-Bean flipped down his gas mask over his face. Then he tore a tear gas grenade off his belt and tossed it onto the steps.

Both Revinowitz and Martin were chanting when the tear gas exploded.

Revinowitz’s concentration broke first. He gagged and wheezed, clawing at his eyes.

Hammer raked the steps with gunfire, separating Martin from Revinowitz.

Jim-Bean charged up the steps and grabbed Revinowitz by the hair. With a heave, he tossed him off the edge… [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Part 1 – Foyer

They appeared in the foyer of an ornate mansion. A freshly swept carpet graced the floor. The walls were decorated with bright, colorful tapestries. Brass candelabras lined the entranceway. They showed signs of having been recently polished and were filled with candles.

“Carcosa Castle,” said Kham. “We’re here.”

Beldin pointed outside. “Is that in the play?”

More frightening than the sudden change from the cave to the castle was the smoky gray mist that surrounded the castle at a distance of thirty feet, blocking all sight beyond. No sound penetrated the mist.

Kham had read the play over and over. “There’s mention of mists. But I didn’t think they were literally mists. More of an allegory for confusion or something.”

The mist advanced on the mansion even as Vlad watched. “Let’s not find out if it’s just an allegory.”

The double doors to the interior swung open into the main hallway by themselves.

They entered a wide, long hallway running east to west. In the center of the hall was a ten-foot wide red carpet stretching from the west door to the east door. The ceiling arched twenty feet high overhead. Near the east end of the hall, a raised catwalk stretched across the hallway ten feet above their heads. At either end of the overpass were double doors.

Thousands of tiny square mirrors were set into the ceiling and walls. The resulting reflection of their torches resembled a swarm of fireflies as myriad pinpoints of light were reflected back. The floor of the hall, where it wasn’t covered with the red carpet, was polished white marble. The marble was so shiny they could see their reflections on its surface. Polished brass candelabra lined both walls and crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. All the candleholders on the candelabra and chandeliers were filled with unlit candles.

“Stay alert,” said Kham. “This is Carcosa, and it can change at any time. I brought black paint along just in case we need to mark our trail.” Kham had a bottle of the inky stuff that he trailed along behind him.

“Did it ever occur to you that you’re giving anything hostile a trail to follow us?” asked Vlad.

Kham shrugged. “Anything that wants to find us in this place will, trust me.”

All the hallway doors suddenly swung open and then slammed shut. The resulting draft extinguished the lights.

“Not a problem.” Kham rapped Daemonscar, the breastplate he wore underneath his overcoat. “I can see just fine.”

“Me too,” said Beldin. “A little bit like home, actually.”

Vlad cleared his throat. “While I’m perfectly capable of fighting blind, I can’t see in the dark like you two.” There was the sound of Vlad fumbling in his pack.

“Vlad!” shouted Kham. “Don’t—“

Vlad’s tindertwig flared to life.

All the candles in the hall magically lit at the same time with a brilliant flash. The light was reflected off the walls, ceiling and floor and off the highly polished chandeliers and candelabra.

“Damn it Vlad!” shouted Beldin.

The flash blinded them all. All they could see was white. [MORE]

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Sunday, July 12

Black Guard: Part 9 – You Scream, I Scream…

The stairs led down into extreme darkness. Their flashlights did not illuminate in the normal way, casting a much dimmer light upon their surroundings. The basement was circular, approximately sixty-foot in diameter. Images of demonic figures, and black writing accompanied them. A large pentagram sketched in white chalk covered the center of the room. The chalk glowed as their flashlight beams traced its perimeter.

A tall man sat akimbo inside the center of the pentagram. He appeared to sleep with his arms folded across his chest. He wore jeans and a dark polo shirt. He was barefoot, with a tag on one toe. What was visible of his body was entirely covered by blackened and blistered skin, oily and sticky to the touch.

Thirteen burned red candles ringed the pentagram. On the opposite side of the room was a small rectangular table that held seven small statues.

Hammer drew his pistols. Jim-Bean pulled out his gas mask and put it on top of his head, ready to be flipped down over his face at any moment.

The door at the top of the stairs slammed shut, and the candles spontaneously lit. A demonic voice echoed through the chamber and the man rose…

Hammer fired several bullets into the figure, but he barely reacted.

“He’s already dead,” said Archive. “Mundane weapons won’t work.”

“Well do something about it!”

With a scream, the man reared back and black tar spewed out of his mouth.

Archive pulled out a piece of chalk and penciled an Elder Sign onto the hilt of Hammer’s pistols. Then he made a mark on Hammer’s forehead.

“What’s that for?” asked Hammer.

“It will protect you,” said Archive.

“Oh man that’s disgusting,” said Jim-Bean, transfixed. The vomiting continued, as the tar slowly encompassed the corpse, volume far beyond the capacity of a human stomach to contain.

“What about my gun?” asked Jim-Bean.

“No time,” said Archive. He tossed him a pocket knife. “Use mine.”

“But this is…” Jim-Bean looked down. It was a Glock. “Never mind.”

The tar rose into a roughly humanoid form, rippling like a pool of black mud, exploding in geysers. It expanded to a size larger than an elephant, but only because of its lengthy lumbering limbs and legs did it project size. Its head was topped by a single black oval eye and snout-like mouth, a receptor filled with needle-like teeth similar to the spines of a cactus. The stench of ammonia filled the room. But by far the most awful part of the beast is its shriek, which sounded like a dying animal slaughtered in the most horrific manner. It echoed inside their skulls.

Archive presented the Elder Sign amulet. “In the name of—“

The Screaming Crawler moved with the grace and speed of a leopard. It closed the distance to Archive in one stride, slamming him against the wall with an undulating limb of ooze and claws. [MORE]

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Castle Ambrose: Prologue

Sebastian was in a crowded ballroom, with a balcony at its back. All the Hasturites were present; they all wore white masks with the visage of the Stranger, to which individual taste added grotesque variations. The result was that each mask looked like a famous person. The costumes were also various and fantastic. Sebastian still wore the silken robe with the Yellow Sign, and Cassilda, though masked, still wore the diadem, as did the child prince. Many were dancing to a formal measure, something like a sarabande, something like stalking.

Cassilda watched the masque from the balcony, Carcosa and the Hyades behind her. The moon had vanished.

“There, Princess,” said Sebastian. “You see that there has been no sending, and there will be none. The Pallid Mask is the perfect disguise.”

“How would we know a sending if it came?” asked Camilla in her singsong voice.

Cassilda descended from the balcony and joined them.

“The messenger of the King drives a hearse,” replied Sebastian.

“Oho,” interrupted Cassilda. “Half the population of Hastur does that. It is the city’s most popular occupation, since the siege began. All that is talk.”

“I have heard what the Talkers were talking—the talk of the beginning and the end,” said Sebastian. “But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.”

“But—the sending?” asked Camilla. “Let us hear.”

“Also, the messenger of the King is a soft man,” said Sebastian. “Should you greet him by the hand, one of his fingers would come off to join yours.”

Camilla recoiled in delicate disgust. Noatalba, who had been circling closer and closer to the group, finally joined it.

“A pretty story,” said Naotalba. “You seem to know everything. I think perhaps you could even tell us, given gold, the mystery of the Hyades.”

“He is King there,” replied Sebastian.

“As everywhere,” said Naotalba curtly. “Everyone knows that.”

“He is not King in Arcanis,” said Sebastian. “That is why Carcosa was built. It is a city in exile. These two mighty stars are deep in war, like Hastur and Alar.”

“Oh, indeed. Who then lives in Carcosa?”

“Nothing human,” said Sebastian. “More than that, I cannot tell you.”

“Your springs of invention run dry with suspicious quickness,” said Naotalba.

“Be silent!” snapped Cassilda. “Stranger, how did you come by all this?”

“My sigil is Aldebaran,” said Sebastian. “I hate the King.”

“And his is the Yellow Sign,” said Naotalba, “which you mock him by flaunting before the world. I tell you this: he will not be mocked. He is a King whom Emperors have served; and that is why he scorns a crown. All this is in the runes.”

“There are great truths in the runes,” replied Sebastian. “Nevertheless, my priest, Aldebaran is his evil star. Thence comes the Pallid Mask.”

“Belike, belike. But I would rather be deep in the cloudy depths of the Dehme than to wear what you wear on your bosom. When the King opens his mantle—“

Somewhere in the palace, a deep-toned gong began to strike.

“Now is the time I never thought to see,” said Cassilda to herself. “I must go, and announce the Succession of Aldones once more to the throne. Perhaps … perhaps the world itself is indeed about to begin again. How strange!”

As the gong continued to strike, everyone began to unmask. There were murmurs and gestures of surprise, real or polite, as identities were recognized and revealed. Then there was a wave of laughter. The music became louder and increased in tempo.

“You, sir, should unmask,” said Camilla.

“Indeed?” asked Sebastian.

“Indeed, it’s time,” said Camilla. “We have all laid aside disguise but you.”

“I wear no mask,” said Sebastian.

“No mask?” asked Camilla. Panic was in her voice. She turned to Cassilda. “No mask!” [MORE]

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Saturday, July 11

Black Guard: Part 8 – House Inspection

The house next door to the Gray’s was a large gray-brick home with an attached two-door garage and a large privacy fence encompassing the back yard. The home was two-stories tall with large bay windows along the front. Very few flowers grew in the yard and tall bushes filled the flowerbeds bordering the home.

Police flyers posted on the doors and windows pronounced that the home was “sealed by order of Judge Joe McCrary of Rosetta, Texas, pending completion of a criminal investigation. Anyone entering the premises without proper authority are in violation of this court-order and may be subject to criminal procedures.”

Jim-Bean approached the door. It was locked. He put one palm on it and concentrated.

The door clicked open as the various locks and chains undid themselves, bending to his will. The door flung itself open to reveal…

Hammer standing there.

“The window was open,” muttered Hammer, shaking his head.

The living room was spacious but sparsely decorated. An entertainment center sat on the north side of the room, just right of a door leading to the guest room. A 19” television set and an impressive surround sound system dominated the entertainment center. Lining the center was a rack of music CDs.

Jim-Bean checked out the audio equipment. “Manufactured in Germany. Go figure.”

A small brown couch and a faded leather recliner were centered on the entertainment center. Only two pictures were hung on the walls. One was a painting of a blonde boy looking upward, and the other was a picture of the 69 Mets following their World Series win. Under the picture was a banner with the caption, “You gotta believe!”

“I didn’t figure Nazis for Mets fans,” said Hammer.

A small fireplace filled the east corner next to the back wall. There was a closet beside the front door and an opening that led to the office on the southern wall. Two archways opened on the northern wall, one leading into a formal dining room, while the other provided access to the kitchen. There was a set of stairs going up in the center of the western wall, and a restroom door as well. A balcony overhung half the room, providing a good view of the front door and the front half of the living room.

“Spread out,” said Hammer. “I want a room by room search. Whatever happened is going on with this Doctor has something to do with this house.”

Jim-Bean caught a glimpse of a figure slipping across the threshold of the stairwell upstairs. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

“This is Nina Juarez,” whispered the GNN reporter into her handheld wireless microphone. “I’m here live in the Nazi house of Frank Manz, also known as Doctor Olaf Bitterich. I’ve searched the rooms here and despite the house supposedly being abandoned there’s evidence that someone, or something, is living here. Curiously, I found a pen with Dr. Revinowitz’s name on it, the forensic examiner on the case. I think I just heard someone enter the home…”

Jim-Bean’s psychic senses were suddenly tugged downwards into the center of the house, as if something was trying to get his attention. He perceived a terrible screeching, like nails on a chalkboard – he didn’t hear it, but he felt it tingle up and down his spine.

Jim-Bean sighed. “It’s that GNN reporter again.”

“How did she get here before us?” asked Archive.

“Juarez!” shouted Hammer. “Get down here!”

Nina slunk her way down the steps. “Agent Grange? What are you doing here?”

“You are in violation of a court order!” snarled Hammer. “Get out of here!”

Nina recovered, holding the microphone up to Hammer’s face. “Why is the government interested in this place, Agent Grange?”

Archive lifted one hand and the microphone began to spark.

Nina threw the microphone down in disgust. “Why does this keep happening!” He took out her tape recorder.

Archive kept his hand up, whispering to himself.

Nina played the tape. All that came out was static.

“Oh come on…”

Archive’s chanting grew louder. He opened his eyes and Nina was compelled to look at him.

Then she bolted for the door.

“What did you do to her?” asked Jim-Bean.

Archive shrugged. “Broke her microphone, degaussed her tape recorder, and scared the crap out of her.”

“So pretty much what we did to her last time,” snorted Hammer. [MORE]

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Chapter 56: Castle Ambrose - Introduction

This scenario is adapted from Dungeon Module X2, “Castle Amber” by Tom Moldavy. It was adapted for 3.0 rules by Ronald G. Hopkins. I in turn updated it to 3.5 (and tweaked it considerably) for the Arcanis setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

When I realized that one of the PCs would have to sacrifice himself at the end of Tatters of the King, I knew there had to be a way to get him back. The problem is that Carcosa is such a screwy place, few adventures could do it justice. So I searched and searched, and I kept coming back to an adventure that had a direct connection to the Cthulhu Mythos: Castle Amber.

Castle Amber has it all. A horrible tragedy happens in the throne room, trapping everyone in the castle and making them insane? Check. An opportunity to set things right through heroic quests in a strange land? Check. Lots of bizarre monsters, ridiculous traps, and magic items that you’d only find in an old school adventure? Check.

Because Moldavy got permission to add in snippets of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories, there are Cthulhu-esque elements throughout the adventure, scenes I completely missed when I DMed this adventure over twenty years ago. With Sebastian wearing the Pallid Mask and by switching Averogine to Carcosa, I now had my Stranger in a Strange Land.

This adventure is mostly a long slog of relentless battles. I got to play with miniatures and monsters I never normally would use because they simply don’t make sense in most adventures. But here, in Carcosa, everything makes sense and nothing does.

Much to my dismay, I discovered that the original author, Tom Moldavy, passed away the same month we played this adventure. So this story can be seen as our tribute to his work. Tom drew on many sources for this adventure, and I return to those roots in this story hour. You will see references to the fairy tale of the Billy Goat’s Gruff, the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the works of Clark Ashton Smith: The Colossus of Ylourgne, The Enchantress of Sylaire, The Beast of Averoigne, and the Holiness of Azedarac. The flashbacks of the play combine Thom Ryng’s King in Yellow with James Blish’s version.

In the end, everything that was done is undone, and a major chapter of the dreaded play comes to a close. [MORE]

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Friday, July 10

Black Guard: Part 7 – Sphere of Influence

Archive was helping Jim-Bean to his feet when Hammer met them in the kitchen.

“What happened?” asked Hammer, pistols out.

“Jim-Bean was possessed by an entity,” said Archive matter-of-factly. “A victim of somebody called…”

“The Doctor. I know, I heard about him from Matthew.”

“You okay?” asked Hammer.

Jim-Bean shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “I’m fine,” he said. “That was weird.”

“The little girl was…a…” Archive’s eyes were focused on the other side of the room. “…conduit…”

A six-inch diameter ball of energy emerged from the ceiling and floated before them.

Archive stumbled backwards, panting in fear. “Oh Jesus!” he wailed, falling over one of the bar stools. “Get it away from me!”

The orb flashed colors sequentially, going from white to blue to green to red, and back to white.

“Archive,” said Hammer slowly. “Be cool.”

Archive ran towards Lisa’s room.

“What the hell?” asked Jim-Bean. “I mean, it’s a ghost and everything but he was cool about the poltergeist…”

“It’s a sphere,” snapped Hammer, pointing his pistols at the thing. “Remember what happened at the park?” [MORE]

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Shadows: Conclusion


Kham took out Coomb’s knife and, palm up, slashed his open hand. He dripped the blood in a rough pattern of the Yellow Sign.

The gate was activated. A high keening came through the portal, loud and constant, and as it sounded the white light became blue.

“Now we can enter Carcosa.” He turned back to look at his companions. “If you don’t want to do this, I understand. I don’t know if Sebastian’s even alive. Or what Carcosa looks like once we’re through.”

Beldin winced. The healing potions could only do so much. “I haven’t come this far only to stop now,” he said.

“Me neither,” said Vlad. “Sebastian sacrificed himself to save us. We owe him one.”

Kham nodded. “This time, I’m going through FIRST.” And with that he jumped through the portal. [MORE]

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Wednesday, July 8

Black Guard: Part 6 – The Doctor is In

Hammer checked in on Matthew, who was sitting up straight in his bed, listening to the ruckus.

“You okay kid?”

Matthew nodded. “Yeah, the Rabbi says it’s okay.”

Hammer edged into the room. “He’s here with you now?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I speak with him?”

Matthew cocked his head, listening. “He says you can speak through me.” [MORE]

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Shadows: Part 8 – The Vile Gate

Vlad appeared within a hermetic circle inside a large cave, polluted by the stench of death. Ahead was a dark figure clad in whipping yellow robes, outlined by the light of a white disk of pulsing energy projected by a small metal box on the floor. Inside the field was a k’n-yan army, all fighting to break through. Dozens of bodies lay all around, blood still pumping form their slashed throats. They were grievously wounded, but a few groans suggested they were not all dead.

Beldin was already advancing. Two byakhee barred his path.

“Quelch!” snarled Vlad. “It’s over!”

Elijah Quelch was a big, fat man with long black hair and a full beard. His age was difficult to guess.

“I don’t think so,” snarled Quelch. He pointed at Vlad, muttering something in Hasturic. Vlad’s legs went rigid. It was the same spell that had paralyzed him last time.

“Try that on me!” bellowed Beldin. He batted aside one of the byakhee, accustomed to fighting them. The creature leap frogged over him so that the dwarf was besieged by the creatures from both sides.

“As for you…” Quelch pointed at Beldin and a sizzling ray of black energy sliced into him. The dwarf writhed in pain.

One of the byakhee landed on top of Beldin, pinning him to the ground.

“No!” Vlad struggled against the magic that held him. “I won’t…let you!” He drew his crossbow and fired.

The bolt bounced off of Quelch’s chest. He grinned. “There’s no canal to save you this time.” [MORE]

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Black Guard: Part 5 – Chasing Aimee

Lisa gathered up Marissa at the entrance to the girl’s bedroom, sans door. An incredible force had ripped it right off its hinges.

“What happened?” she asked, half-fearing the answer.

“Whatever it is, it’s gone now,” said Archive.

Lisa peered into the Marissa’s room. “What’s he doing?”

“You’d better get Matthew and go to your bedroom,” said Archive. “Lock the door.”

Lisa, pale with fear, carried Marissa to Matthew’s room. Archive took a deep breath and walked into Marissa’s room.

Jim-Bean was on the floor, playing with Marissa’s dolls, and most specifically a floppy orange little monster.

“Jimmy?” he asked.

Jim-Bean looked up. His pupils were completely white.

“I am…Aimee Resnick,” said Jim-Bean in a soft, feminine voice. [MORE]

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Shadows: Part 7 – Puzzle Portal

They reached a pentagonal room. The walls, ceiling, and floor were uniform black stone. In the center of each wall was a red door, although they had no handles, keyholes, or any obvious means of opening them. In the middle of the room stood a pedestal, capped with a metal plate bearing five studs.

“This is the device Yolanda created to enter the portal,” said Kham. “See each of these studs? They’re dials. There are twenty-six letters in the Hasturic alphabet. She used them to spell out key words. The right combination of key words opens the portal. You have to turn each of the dials, and the last dial you turn, if it’s in the correct sequence, opens the portal.”

“Great,” said Vlad. “I’m ready.”

Kham shook his head. “Not so simple. You have to do it one at a time. It won’t let more than one person teleport in; a safeguard of Yolanda’s.”

“Fat lot of good it did,” muttered Beldin. The dwarf had recovered from the poison with just a few minutes of rest. His companions were continually amazed by his constitution. “If Quelch is corrupting it now, it wasn’t too hard to guess.”

“No, it’s not,” Kham said grimly. “We just have to spell: enter."

“What if we turn the dial to the wrong numbers?” asked Vlad.

“You don’t want to know.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, July 7

Black Guard: Part 4 – “I Love You…”

Jim-Bean pushed aside a floppy orange-colored doll with wide, staring eyes and a huge grinning maw to reach for the figurines. To his psychic perception they were sparkling with energy. He had no idea how they’d gotten into Marissa’s closet.

Jim-Bean didn’t realize the temperature in the room had plummeted until he caught sight of the sleeping girl’s breath, misting in the air. He shivered.

Banging resounded from the kitchen, breaking the silence within the home. Crashing sounds and breaking glass quickly followed, as the volume of noise increases to deafening levels.

Jim-Bean leapt up and ran into the kitchen, pistol out. Archive and Jim-Bean skidded into the kitchen at the same time.

The cabinets of the kitchen violently opened, slammed shut, and opened again. With each opening, contents of the cabinets crashed out onto the tiled floor.

“What the hell is going on?” shouted Hammer, pointing his pistol everywhere at once.

“Poltergeist!” shouted Archive. “It’s probably connected to the girl—“

The pantry door boomed as it banged shut, and reopened.

Jim-Bean ducked a can of food. Unlike his two companions, he could see the normally invisible poltergeist.

It looks just like Marissa’s doll, only larger. It had two saucer-sized eyes, the black pupils punctuating the white surface. Its maw was in a perpetual expression of slack-jawed stupidity. It had large, bird-like feet and rubbery arms that ended in cartoon-like hands with just three fingers. A short stubby tail wagged behind it as it tore open cabinets and tossed their contents around like a toddler throwing a tantrum. [MORE]

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Shadows: Part 6 – Summoning Room

Four braziers that flickered with blue flames lit the profane room. On each wall was a large tapestry. The most startling thing in the room was a huge yellow sign chiseled into the stone itself. The channel was stained brown from old blood.

“Great,” said Beldin. “A summoning room.”

One tapestry depicted a foul infant clawing its way out of the belly of some grotesque being. Another showed naked but masked cultists tearing out the throats of their bound male prisoners. The last tapestry depicted a flaming ring surrounded by strange glyphs and sigils.

“Through here!” Emric ran through the tapestry on the far wall, crossing the symbol on the floor.

“No, wait…” was all Kham got out. [MORE]

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Monday, July 6

Black Guard: Part 3 – They’re Here

The grandfather clock in the Gray’s house bonged twelve times.

Archive’s cistron buzzed. He had voice mail.

Archive clicked on the ear bud in his ear. “Any of you guys just leave me a message?”

Positioned at guard posts in the intersecting halls of the house, Hammer and Jim-Bean confirmed they hadn’t.

“Maybe it’s one of your fans,” muttered Hammer. “Since everyone seems to have your phone number.”

“Very funny,” said Archive. “My old cell phone number redirects to the cistron.”

“Maybe you should play it,” said Jim-Bean.

Archive replayed the message with the other agents on the line.

The message crackled with static. But there was a whispered, urgent message within the noise.

“What was that?” asked Hammer.

“I think it said something about finding a body,” said Archive. “Did you hear that?” [MORE target="_blank"]

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Shadows: Part 5 – Storeroom

The steps descended into a small cellar. Racks, shelves, old crates, boxes, and barrels filled the room. A puddle of water glistened briefly with blue light and then faded. Emerging from the shadows was a naked young man, fear painting his features.

“Emric?” Kham asked in disbelief.

Emric began sobbing. “You’ve got to take me with you!”

“Careful,” said Beldin impassively. “It could be a trap.”

“I’ll take him outside to the Sea Lord’s Guard,” said Vlad. “He’ll be safer there.”

“No!” shouted Emric. He was shivering. “I’m safer here with you!”

Kham took off his jacket and put it around the boy’s shoulders. “What happened?”

“Quelch. Elijah Quelch.”

“We killed him,” Vlad said resolutely. “We saw him fall into the canal.”

Emric just stared at Vlad. “It wasn’t enough.”

“What did he want with you?” asked Beldin.

“He’s kidnapping children…creating a portal to the Unspeakable One’s world. He plans to gate in hundreds of k’n-yan and plunge Freeport into Carcosa, as Lucius Roby did.”

Kham looked sideways at Emric. “How did you know that?”

Emric lifted his chin, defiant. “I’m supposed to be Sea Lord one day myself, remember? Uncle Thralen keeps both ears to the ground.”

“Arrogant, confident, and not wearing a lick of clothing…” Kham shrugged. “You must be Emric.” [MORE]

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Friday, July 3

Black Guard: Part 2 – The Book of Matthew

Archive chose his words carefully. “More like a guardian spirit,” he said. “This Rabbi, whoever he is, is watching over Matthew.”

Lisa sighed. “About time one of them was useful. I’m going to go put Marissa to bed. Wake me if you need anything.”

Lisa left. Hammer and Jim-Bean joined Archive at the doorway, leaving behind the electronic sounds of exploding zombies.

“So how did that scroll get in there?” asked Jim-Bean.

“Ghosts don’t usually write things without help.”

“Help?” asked Hammer.

“The Rabbi possessed Matthew,” Archive said grimly. [MORE]

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Shadows: Part 4 – Pantry

A dozen white dust-covered children faced them. They had wicked curved knives in hand. Beyond them was a stairwell.

“Now we know the source of the laughter,” said Vlad.

“That’s our exit,” said Kham. “But we’re going to have to fight through them.”

The translucent children advanced.

Vlad switched to Vrosh’s spear. The tip crackled with electrical energy. “Here’s hoping I remembered the old snake’s tactics.” He spun the spear experimentally in one hand.

“Yeah, great.” Beldin sliced through one of the children with no effect at all. It laughed at him. “Just make sure it connects.” [MORE}

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Thursday, July 2

This. Is. Gross.


Fortunately, someone figured out what it (they) is (are). That doesn't make it any less bizarre.

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Black Guard: Part 1 – Going Gray

Ms. Gray’s home was in the west side of Rosetta on a cul-de-sac containing only five homes. A concrete sidewalk connected each home along the cul-de-sac.

The Gray home was a single story, red-bricked home with an attached garage. There was a large pecan tree in the front yard and several oak and pine trees shading the back yard. The backyard had a seven-foot wooden privacy fence. Although Ms. Gray had rose bushes and colorful annuals bordering her home, they were neglected and many had withered. Very little traffic occurred in the area. Lisa drove a new, white minivan, which she parked in the driveway.

Hammer pulled the SUV up. “Maybe we should stay in the car,” he said with a frown.

Archive blinked. “Why?”

“This isn’t our case. I don’t want to freak the poor woman out.”

“You?” asked Jim-Bean with a smirk. “Intimidating?” He switched to a Texas drawl. “Why I do declare I’ve never heard – I say I’ve never heard – of such a thing!”

“That sounds like Foghorn Leghorn,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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Vengeance: Part 3 – Conservatory

“Don’t go near the plant,” said Kham. “It’s a trap.”

Beldin paused. “There’s a fine-looking mace buried beneath it. Let me just take a look…”

“Damn it Beldin!” shouted Kham. But it was too late.

Beldin got a hold of the mace just as a rotten branch slapped outwards to encircle the dwarf’s wrist.

A brief tug of war ensued as the dwarf, determined the retrieve his find, refused to release the mace. The pile of vegetation lurched and suddenly Beldin disappeared.

“Great.” Kham had his blades out. “Now what?”

Vlad blocked another whipping tendril with his shield. “Just don’t use any lightning on the thing…they love lightning.” [MORE]

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Wednesday, July 1

Black Guard: Prologue

Rosetta was a small suburban town, widely known for its beautiful woods. The total population just touched 53,000. Many wealthy families lived in the area and this affluence provided access to many amenities and services. The city had a large library, a first class private hospital, and a professional police force and fire department.

Rosetta was home to RaeMart Industries, a large scientific firm that created specialized missile technology. Rosetta’s schools were some of the best in Texas and the students consistently scored among the highest in the state. Rosetta was home to the American Dream.

The north side of town consisted mostly of industrial zones and shopping areas, including a large mall. The east side was the oldest part of town and many of the families who lived there were very wealthy and owned large plantation-style homes. To the south lay the “poor” section of town, which was the only area zoned for apartment buildings.

“So there’s supposed to be a Nazi around here somewhere?” asked Hammer, driving a huge black SUV.

Jim-Bean shrugged from the passenger seat. “I know what I saw. Galt said Rosetta, Texas. And some doctor.”

Archive scanned his limited-access cistron. “The old town square holds an arts and crafts festival most weekends and is ringed by a number of antique stores. The most popular restaurant is The Cattleman, but many chain restaurants can be found on the north side of town.”

“But nothing about Nazis?” asked Hammer.

“Nothing yet,” said Archive. “But if you had a Nazi living in town, wouldn’t you bury it?”

“Point taken,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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Vengeance: Part 2 – Game Room

A couple of billiard tables stood in the room, along with a few empty racks for cues. A fireplace filled with trash and bones stood on one wall.

“What the hell is that?” asked Vlad.

Dominating the center of the room were two blobs of quivering flesh, each stained with dark streaks. The flesh shuddered and released a spray of disgusting liquid.

“Pwalgs,” Kham said with a frown. “Sentient tumors torn from the Unspeakable One’s flesh. Look out!”

He dove to the side as a stream of acid spewed forth, melting one of the billiard tables in half.

Vlad drew the light gladius he had retrieved from Bijoux’s homeworld. “This should help.” [MORE]

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