Continued from part one, in which Amanda Sharpe, student at Miskatonic University, discovered of the strange forces against which she must struggle.
The Hound of Tindalos—for so it was, a name that suddenly leapt to mind, having spotted it nearly a year previously in a dusty textbook on ancient Hittite mythology and lore discovered in the labyrinthine aisles of the Miskatonic Library—stalked to and fro in the narrow space of the road that led away from Hibb’s Roadhouse. That the vile creature paid little attention to the few others aware of its presence only reaffirmed my conviction that some alien plot was afoot this day, some foul conspiracy that held my very soul in the balance. The few people unwise enough to be walking the streets on this day turned night, with a sky no doubt seething with such Things of Darkness that the mind would shudder to behold, quickly scurried away to the safety of further locales.
At that moment, the furtive actions of the citizens of Arkham seemed the most prudent course of action. My Boston years seemed fresh in mind as I slid away from the doorway into the gutter running alongside the roadhouse. It was an early lesson from running with the gangs; pride has no place in the face of violence or arrest; slinking through rubbish is always preferable to rotting in a cell. And so the rubbish it was: the rotting refuse that can only be found sweltering out front of a place like Hibb’s: broken bottles, discarded food, soggy fag-ends, a tooth violently dislodged, vomit—and a rat, feasting upon this collection of human filth. Better the rat than the hound, I remember thinking, crawling unseen past the swirling blue mist that faded from view only to reappear mere feet away, the horrid impression of a slavering, canine jaw and burning, hellish eyes briefly appearing before fading away once again.
Heart pounding, arms and legs scratched and clothes left filthy by the experience, I made my way away from Hibb’s, only narrowly evading an encounter with the Hound of Tindalos. It was not until I reached the relative safety of the streets of Easttown that I allowed myself a deep breath of relief. An unexpected sense of joy overcame me, a sense that I was actively opposing and escaping the fate that no doubt lay in wait for me... but such happiness was short lived as a newspaper, tumbling in the dark winds of that unnatural night, swept up against my legs. Picking up the crumpled paper, I unfolded it to discover a most chilling headline: Goat-Like Creature Spotted in Woods! Such news, I realized, could only bode ill; and for the first time I felt a profound sense of guilt at the realization that my personal trials were imposing all manners of terrors upon this unfortunate, sleep Massachusetts town.
But there was little time for either guilt or doubts, I realized. The very air—and ground—somehow, the very reality through which I moved somehow felt... thin, as though the fabric of space and time in which I existed was slowly being torn and unravelled. Increasingly a sense of impending Doom grew upon me, and I understood that every moment I spent inactive increased the likelihood that my doom would flourish, grow to fruition and awaken in some horrid manner. And therefore, pushing not only any sense of accomplishment at having passed my first trial—the creature which no doubt still lurked out front of Hibb’s—but also my hesitation aside, I quickly made my way out of the Easttown neighbourhood and headed for the strange, abandoned house known only as The Unnamable.
And in good time, for as I left the open streets I glanced back, just in time to see the shifting cloud and bestial countenance of the Hound crawl into the place I previously occupied. I barely repressed a scream that would no doubt have given my presence away—and yet, even as I repressed the terror and tears that threatened to overwhelm me, it seemed to me a great hunter descend from the sky—a mighty figure, manly and bare-chested, white hair streaming behind him, riding a flaming chariot and bearing a spear; and with a powerful thrust and fierce cry the Hound was struck, and howled in rage and agony; and was gone. And then the figure left as quickly as it appeared—wild Noden, I recognized from my classical studies, bestowing upon Arkham his favour. Such things were not possible, I thought, even then, as I fled the neighbourhoods of Arkham, but with each step the unnatural darkness that gripped the city seemed to lessen and lift, until finally some sunlight seemed to filter through the inky clouds above, feebly but inexorably thrusting the night aside.
By the time I reached the Unnamable, the sun was shining once again. The proper, healthy brightness of day made the approach to the forsaken house bearable—barely, for all manner of evil rumours lurked about this place. I had little desire to enter the place, but if it could provide a clue as to the true nature of the evil raising against me, what choice did I have? Finding the front door locked, I slowly made my way around the decrepit edifice, forcing my way through the overgrowth that threatened to overwhelm the house. An unnatural silence surrounded me, and deprived of the natural sounds of birds and wind that should exist in this place my thoughts turned inwards. Simply being here, it seemed to me, forced me to consider not only the events of this day but my studies of the past two years. Two years—in Arkham—at Miskatonic—it slowly began to dawn on me that the many and varied stories and glimpses of old lore I had stumbled across over this time may be far more than mere superstition, but perhaps glimpses into the a reality far more frightening and profound than I had ever dared consider previously.
Finding a window where the planks seemed less secure, I pried the wood aside and slipped into the so-called ‘Unnamable’ building. Within, the weight of innumerable years settled heavily across every surface, and the dust was thick, though broken in places by the tracks of rats, mice and other less... definable, vermin. If this place had once served as the home of one of the architects of Miskatonic University, it must have been a very long time ago indeed, and my heart sank as I realized that there was little hope of finding any clues here as to what I could do to avert my fate.
Nevertheless, I took the time to search through the building carefully. As I slowly climbed the stairs to the chambers above, it almost felt as though a voice was calling me forward. Tremulously, I allowed the whispers and nearly-unconscious chant to lure me forward, across silent rooms in which the air seemed alive with myriad motes that glittered in the faint light that filtered through cracks in the boarded up windows. The voice—louder now—whispering insistently, called me towards a closed door at the end of a narrow hallway. Hesitantly, I reached out towards the handle. Part of me—a rational part, one that did not believe in the strange and horrible things that lurk beyond the night—could not believe that I was doing this, that I was the heroine stupid enough to open a closed door at the end of a dark hallway, as in so many of the Gothic novels I had read.
The door opened with a creak that was nearly drowned by the sudden chorus of voices that echoed, resonated within my skull. It died almost immediately at the sight before me: a large room eerily lit by the intermittent shafts of brilliance that slashed across the floor and up the walls, illuminating... notes, pictures, scrawled writing across every space surrounding a semi-spherical image of what appeared some vaulting... doorway, or gate. And at the centre of the image of the gate a picture: a horrid, squid-like head whose writhing tendrils nearly concealed the toothy maw beneath. The room suddenly felt claustrophobic. I had to get out of there. Some of the words and images scraped across that wall burned themselves into my mind as I turned to flee. I rushed down the stairs. Headed for the door. I was about to leave when I final whispered reached me through the panic. Glancing back, I noted a loose floorboard. On an impulse I pried it open. Beneath, I discovered a small, stone tablet; ebony perhaps, and lightly inscribed into the surface the image of a woman, or a cat—or a lithe, sensual woman with a feline face and head; of Bast, I decided, recollecting some earlier studies and an afternoon spent at the museum visiting the permanent Egyptian exhibit there.
Curious, though unsure of the precise function or meaning of the strange item, I took it into my possession, and left the discomforting house. Something of the atmosphere of the place remained with me as I escaped into the clear, sunny streets, for I felt somehow tainted....
I paused in the relative safety of a busy and open street, in the midst of the afternoon flow of traffic running like blood through the arteries of Arkham, to consider my next move. The information I possessed seemed scarce, especially in the face of the threat before me—and yet, upon reflection, the clues I had collected made my destination clear: The Witch House.
The place was not really called ‘The Witch House’, of course. Whatever its true name, however, it has been known as ‘The Witch House’ ever since those strange, superstitious happenings several decades ago. At one time I would have dismissed the odd tales and myths as pure nonsense, but recent event were beginning to convince me otherwise. Thinking back upon those strange inscriptions upon the wall, and correlating those with the notes of my friend; filtering it all through the knowledge I myself had accrued during my time as a student—led me to consider that this strange, legend-haunted house as one of many potential sources of the evil levelled against my person.
Had there been time, perhaps I would have considered those legends further and found a safer or more sensible approach to the location. The ever-growing sense of impending doom compelled me forward however, and I approached the forbidding abode at a reckless pace. But even as I turned the corner and rushed down a weed-choked and untended path that towards the house—the very air before me seem to waver, and swirl, and thicken—and suddenly the path before me was no longer clear, but blocked some impossible Gate; a tear in the normality of the world I had previously known, leading to....
“The City of the Great Race.”
With cold fear seizing my stomach and dragging it into the deepest depths of my being, I turned towards the voice addressing me from behind. A man stood a mere ten feet away. His shirt was stained with dirt and his scraggly beard unkempt; and gripped firmly in his hands was an axe. His eyes burned into mine, and in them I saw a madness that chilled me to the core.
“A race,” he continued, his voice, “that you could barely conceive of. Might, and proud.” He giggled, and took a tentative, almost playful chop at the air with his weapon. “Great, one might say.”
I considered running—whether towards or away from the Gate mattered little—but I feared that the man, in his madness, would find the insane energy needed to overtake me, or that he might even throw his weapon, bulky as it might be, at my back. The Gate called to me, but first I would somehow have to find a way past this Maniac.
To be concluded in part three...
The holy dove, she will be caught again.
Bought and sold, and bought again. The dove is never free.
Another great read, I like how you highlight the game terms in bold, I can see Amanada moving around the board, but your descriptions give the board its own life.