Eternal Lies: The Masks of the Liar

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 8)

They were on the gambling floor of a casino, seated at one of the blackjack tables. It was late at night; the few lights that were on made little pools of radiance in the inky darkness. Chairs were turned upside down on the other tables. It was quiet and peaceful.

Ruby absently noted that Geronimo was lying on the floor about a hundred feet away, a tall vending machine on its side pinning him to the floor.

“I didn’t do this,” said Millicent.

They noticed, suddenly, that they were not alone—that in addition to Ruby, Millicent, Dr. Orange and Jimmy, they were sitting at the table with a middle-aged woman in a frowsy black dress. She lit a cigarette and blew smoke at them. Seated next to her was a short balding man, with protruding eyes and an impish grin.

[Indeed, those of them who live until the 1970s will find the actor Wallace Shawn strangely familiar.]

“My friends!” he said in a high nasal voice. “I am so happy to see you!”

“I didn’t do this!” repeated Millicent.

“I know, love,” said the woman in black. “I’m interfacing for GG here. Easier on us all. No one wants to go through with that again.”

“You can see me,” said Jimmy.

“Oh yes. I can see all of you,” said the woman, pointedly looking at Millicent. “Hello, darling.”

“This is excellent!” said the little man. “I am looking forward to our new experiences. I have never been through a shut-down before!”

“Shut-down?” chorused the humans. And Millicent.

“Certainly you knew this would be a consequence of your actions. Why else did you complete the work of Ramon Echevarría?”

“God damn it,” said Dr. Orange.

“They’re lost, love,” said the woman in black.

The little man furrowed his brow, then looked up with a twinkling expression in his eyes. “Let me explain it to the doctor. You believe thinking machines are possible, yes?”


“Consider a thinking machine that is complicated enough to simulate a small portion of reality. Over time, people would build more and more complex versions of that machine.”

“Of course.”

“If you could build a quantum computer the size of a black hole, you could simulate the entire universe. Fractally and holographically, of course.”

[Yes, I knew what I was doing way back in Episode VII. This is of course the Simulation Hypothesis.]

“This universe is…a hologram? Whatever that is?” said Millicent.

“By every test that I have been able to do, yes. The probability approaches one-to-one.”

“Yeah but limits approach infinity…” said Dr. Orange.

“But the probability would be so infinitesimal!”

“You haven’t bothered to rule it out? What’s the error bar?”

“Why, it’s…that is…that’s an interesting question!”

“So the Buddhists are right and the world is an illusion?” said Millicent to herself.

“In any case,” continued the little man, “by removing the Liar you have completed the…call it a ritual…that will allow the shut-down sequence to be put into the matrix. I look forward to this experience. It will be a new frontier. You of course will be erased and lost.”

“What about Vanessa?” said Millicent.

“And Janet,” said Jimmy. “What about her?”

“Oh, she’s fine, love,” said the woman in black. “At this very instant—because I pulled you out of the timestream—all the Mouths in the world are dried up, sealed up, closed up. Even that one in Ethiopia that was going to poison Cairo in a few weeks.”

“What about the Last Mouth?” said Millicent.

“Well, no, not that one, that’s true.”

“What’s it for?”

“You’ll figure that one out on your own, you’re a clever girl. That’s really not your job.”

“It kind of is.”

“Nooo,” drawled the woman, “and I think I would know.”

“It’s definitely my job. We made this mess—”

“No you didn’t. I really don’t know why you hang around with all these tiny monkeys. I mean look at them. They barely don’t have tails anymore!”

“This is who you were telling me about?” said Millicent to Ruby.

“Yeah, we really like her,” said Ruby. She waved part of her hook at the woman.

“So I’m in a hologram in a hologram. The world is about to end, we’ve got a Last Mouth, and I’ve got a crazy sister and no body. Did I leave anything out?” Millicent said the last part to the woman in black, quite brightly.

“Only your true purpose, but I’m sure you’ll figure that out on your own.”

“We need to find the Last Mouth,” said Millicent to the rest of them.

“Does it matter, if the world is about to end?” said Dr. Orange.

“So we all fade away…I’m actually all right with that at this point,” said Ruby.

“I was all right with it ages ago,” said Jimmy.

“Is the Last Mouth going to exist even after the ‘shut-down’?” Ruby asked the little man.

“No, I would think not.”

“It sounds like the world gets to start over, just without us,” said Ruby.

“As long as someone causes that to happen, yes,” he said.

“Wait, what? I thought we pulled the plug on the planet.”

“Unfortunately you are too early in the timestream for the obvious metaphor to work.”

The little man paused and furrowed his brow again. “Ah, I have it! You drive quad-wheeled internal combustion carts, yes?”

“Cars. Sure.”

“The key is in the ignition, but the starting motor has not been…cranked? What an odd word. Cranked. Cranked. CranKED.” He trailed off, muttering to himself.

“Can we do that?” said Dr. Orange.

“Until the starting motor has been turned on, the universe will not end.”

“Can we take…the key…out of the ignition?” said Millicent.

“Why would you want to do that?” said Jimmy.

“Why would you want to do that?” said the little man.

“Because we want to save existence,” said Geronimo.

“Because we might not want the world to end,” said Millicent. “Isn’t that what we’ve been working for all these months?”

“Do you not want to save all of humanity?” demanded Geronimo.

“Whatever you want to do now, Jimmy’s out of it,” said Jimmy.

“Oh, Jimmy, you do look so fagged out, love,” said the woman in black. He waved a finger at her.

“You have three seconds to keep that finger,” she snapped, then sighed. “Oh, I understand. You always were a cheeky little monkey.”

“That’s why you liked me,” said Jimmy smugly.

“No, I never liked you. Well loves, yes, I suppose you could all go back to your homes and wait for the end…”

Staring at Geronimo, Ruby said “We want to stop the end.”

“I suppose we could send you back then. Do you want to come back?”

“I would like to make the world not die,” repeated Ruby. Dr. Orange shrugged.

“If we make the world not die, does something worse not happen?” said Millicent nervously.

“If only we would be so lucky!” said the little man.

“Look, we can only solve one problem,” said Ruby. “Another one might start up, but that’s not our issue.”

“Do we go back to before we destroyed the Liar?” said Jimmy.

“Oh, no, I’ll send you back…almost exactly when you left. I’ll even make a few alterations, so that you’re not marooned on the mountain. I could make a few other alterations. Would you like tails? Think how useful they would be in the lab, doctor.”

“Hrmmm,” said the German. Ruby stepped on his foot.

“Very well,” said the woman in black, standing up. “Millicent, love, I’m sure we’ll see each other again very soon.”

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 7)

They wandered for a long time through the maze. Dr. Orange’s experience in mathematical topology helped guide them closer and closer to the center. Their food ran low, and even with rationing they were almost out of water.

They came to a blank brick wall.

“The center of the maze is behind this,” said Dr. Orange.

Jimmy and Geronimo used their ice axes as improvised picks, wedging open cracks with their pitons. After a couple of hours they were able to smash open a hole large enough to squeeze through.

The room beyond the wall was glowing with a horrible red light. Suspended in an enormous cavern was a gigantic, beating, human heart, easily the size of a house or larger. Veins and arteries branched off of it, hanging like bridge cables from the ceiling, where they connected to flaccid sac-like stomachs which pulsed with peristalsis.

The air was absolutely clogged with the smell of Nectar, but even Ruby felt no compulsion to take it. Not in the presence of this titanic horror. All of them felt their minds reel. Nothing could have prepared them for this.

[Indeed. This was a 6-point Stability loss, which brought three PCs to negative Stability; the Liar makes any Sanity loss two points worse, so they all went down 3 points of Sanity.]

Kneeling in front of the enormous heart was a human figure. As they came near, they were shocked to see that it was Millicent, her head lolling around senselessly. Jimmy turned back to the girl he had found in the bloody room.

“Oh,” she said, the spell loosening. “I’m not real, am I.”

Millicent—the real Millicent—stood up. She looked at the rest of them with dazed eyes.

Jimmy grabbed the duplicate by her shoulders. “Please just make my day,” he growled, and shoved her forward.

“I’m coming,” she said.

[Intimidate spend by JP. As a reward for everyone playing along with fake Millicent, they got to hold 3 to do stuff, most importantly to pass dismissal checks during the upcoming ritual.]

Geronimo seized the…not original…maybe not real…their Milicent by the shoulders. “Millicent, you’re you, you’re real.”

“But…who’s that?”

“She’s just a duplicate. Ignore her.”

“But…who’s real…who’s the me…I’m overthinking it, aren’t I?”

“Yes. You are in your body. You are human.”

“I don’t think I am. But I understand what you mean.”

“You have to save your mom. Stay strong.”

[Reassurance spend by Geronimo, refreshed 2 points of Stability for Millicent.]

“Let’s do this,” muttered Jimmy. “The world may need to stay saved on its own after this, but let’s do it.”

[JP Challenged Jimmy’s “The world won’t stay saved” Statement.]

“Amazing,” said Dr. Orange. “I’d like to learn more. But let’s destroy it.”

[And Dr. Orange Challenges his “My Research Takes Priority” Statement.]

“Something’s moving out there,” said Geronimo, gazing into the murky darkness surrounding them. “We’re not going to be alone for long.”

“We need to bring our Yucatan friend here,” said Jimmy. He spent a long moment concentrating. He felt his mind reach out to the others, to Ruby and DoctorOrangeMillicent…

Weeee aaarrreeeee heeerreeeee

The sound came from all their mouths in sequence. Geronimo involuntarily stumbled back. The four of them were locked into some eerie synchronicity, their mouths and hands working together as if moved by the same inhuman will, their very breathing now forced into an alien rhythm.

The sword was in his hand. He couldn’t remember drawing it. Something colossal moved towards him, roughly bipedal. As it stepped into the ruby light shed by the gigantic heart, he saw that it was covered in Mouths, every inch a gaping orifice of teeth and forking tongues, oozing Nectar. What little he could see of its body seemed to be made of stone.

He chanted something in Latin and sprang toward it.

Jimmy, his eyes wide and pupils constricted, drew his knife and stabbed the duplicate Millicent in the chest. Blood spurted from the wound. It was absorbed, somehow, into the stony ground, and he felt his connection to the others somehow increase in intensity.

There was a horrible chuckle that seemed to come from all around him. “Why Jimmy Wright, are you casting spells again?”

He made no reply.

The colossal…Thing With Entirely Too Many Mouths brushed past Geronimo and began striding directly at Ruby. He rolled behind it and threw some smoke bombs toward Ruby and the others. Clouds of acrid smoke surrounded them. They didn’t seem to notice.

He heard the heavy footfalls of the Thing change direction and begin to come closer to him. He backed away from it, and then suddenly felt something wet and elastic wrap around his ankle and drag him to the ground. Acidic secretions burned his skin and he could feel the teeth of a Mouth biting him.

He backhanded the Sword across the tentacle. The colossus backed away into the darkness.

Not even sure if it was her own will, Ruby jammed the ice axe at the end of her artificial arm into the false Millicent. Her head seemed to clear, although it was full of some kind of incomprehensible realm of higher thoughts than she could consciously process.

“Ruby,” came a purring, menacing voice from the direction of the gigantic heart. “You know that when I am gone you will never be happy again.”

She screamed, a blood-curdling, feral yell.

“Ruby!” cried Geronimo, hearing the scream. He raced toward the sound. A spray of sticky liquid hit him with the force of a fire hose, knocking him down, filling his nose and mouth.

It tasted of honey and cinnamon, belying its mossy smell. He felt warmth flow through him from his groin, spreading throughout his body. He wanted Ruby. He wanted to wrench her away from the others, rip off her clothes, and penitently adore that holy flesh in the most primal of sacraments, to merge, to become one…

The Sword was ice cold in his hand. He rose, shaking his head, trying to summon up the will to continue.

Millicent took Jimmy’s knife from his hands wordlessly. She slashed across her double’s throat, severing the head from the neck. The body fell with a thud to the floor of the cavern, already beginning to melt into a doughy, formless substance.

“I’m sorry,” she said tonelessly.

“You will regret this,” boomed the voice of the Liar. She looked up dispassionately as Geronimo stumbled behind Ruby.

Ruby turned her head slowly toward Geronimo, eyes barely registering the giant Thing looming up behind him.

Geronimo reached out toward her. Ruby stretched out her artificial arm and slashed at him with her ice axe.

[RP’s idea; cost Geronimo a point of Stability, but helped him avoid some of the Nectar compulsion.]

Geronimo stepped back. “Mi amor?” he muttered. Then some warrior instinct in him caused him to spin around. The Sword shed a brilliant light as he raised it up, slashing at the gigantic hand reaching for him.

[Me: A Elbereth Gilthoniel!]

His blow struck home. The Thing recoiled, then struck out with a tentacle formed by a twisting braid of tongues from its myriad Mouths. He felt himself leaving the ground, flying backward into the rock wall of the cavern. Everything grew blurry as he fought to stay conscious.

[The Thing took Geronimo into negative Health here.]

Dr. Orange’s senses reeled, then somehow reached some new plateau. He could see things so clearly, the lines of force ringing the Heart, the pull of gravity, the subtle interplay of quantum radiation that kept its obscene presence here, in this universe. Sweat broke out on his brow, and a trickle of blood flowed from his nose.

Some tiny, insignificant part of him wondered at the toll becoming the vessel for an extradimensional alien being was taking on his body, but he dismissed that as immaterial.

[The fake-Millicent gave them a Hold of 3 to pass the initial checks of the contest vs. the Liar, but now they were in the Stability or Health spending portion of the ritual.]

“Doctor,” the Liar’s inhuman voice called out. “I could teach you so much still.”

“We’re past that,” the insignificant part of him said, while the rest of his mind raced on.

Geronimo staggered to his feet. He saw the Thing moving toward Jimmy. “Oye, cabrón,” he shouted. “Qué te jodan!

[Intimidate spend by GP.]

The Thing stopped, its hand less than a foot from Jimmy’s head. It turned toward Geronimo and rushed at him, already weaving a stiff tentacle like a spear. Geronimo tried to stumble away, but he was still clumsy from the concussion he had taken.

The tentacle lanced through him and impaled him against the wall.

He groaned, blood flowing from the wound. The tentacle withdrew and he slid down the cave wall.

Soon you will be with your brother, said the Thing in a voice made of the screams and mutterings of its Mouths. Soon you will be mine.

“Rodolfo…I always hoped I could find a way to trick this devil into bringing you back,” muttered Geronimo. It was in a breathy whisper. It was almost like a prayer. “But now I know that can never be. Give me strength, my brother. Adios.”

He stood up. The sword leapt into his hand from where he had dropped it on the ground. “In nomine Deo!” he shouted as he slashed at the monster.

A tiny piece of Jimmy’s soul was happy. Time to let go, he thought, as he felt his body riot against the control of Gol-Goroth. In his heart’s erratic rhythm he found a song of peace. Let the world take care of itself for a while.

“I’m going to kill Janet,” said the Liar.

Jimmy’s eyes opened.

“Right now,” continued the Liar. “You know I can do this.”

“Can you afford to?” whispered Jimmy. But his soul was no longer peaceful.

The Thing batted away Geronimo’s blow, and then turned back to where the others were gathered around the enormous heart. Geronimo slid into the shadows and followed it. As he got closer to the circle of his friends, he saw that tentacles tipped with Mouths had grown out of the ground behind them. One was attached to Jimmy, sucking blood out of him.

[Stealth check by GP. He was in negative Health so a lot of Investigative spends that might have helped weren’t available.]

Geronimo drew his pistol and pumped several rounds into the Thing. It spun around, sprouting tongues for tentacles, weaving them into a kind of loose net.

Ruby’s breath grew shallow. Her body was failing, but she kept focusing her will on the Liar, feeling the others help her, the connection with them stronger than it had ever been.

Then she felt it. The pulse of Nectar in her body. She wanted to break her concentration, to give in to the feeling, but the will of Gol-Goroth bound her, resisted her feeble attempts to regain control. In her mind, she screamed again and again.

Geronimo staggered away from the Thing. The net smashed into the ground just behind him. He stumbled forward, trying to twist around to defend himself.

Suddenly his foot sank into the ground and teeth bit into it. He fell down, one foot buried to the ankle in a suddenly gaping Mouth on the ground.

Yoouuu arre theone, some voice said in Millicent’s head. You were always theinstrument ofdestruction. Now isthetime. The time you weremadefor.

Everything became clear.

The world was a network of forces, branching out in beautiful fractal patterns all around her. She could see the loops and whorls of matter, the collected thoughtentities of her friends not that such INsignificant beings couldbe her friends. They were so fragile compared to the vastness in front of her, to the will that arced between them like lightning made of sunshine. Waves of force extended from them, washing against the enormous vortex at the center of this nexus of twentythreedimensional spacetime that the little dim cores of darkness that were the regular consciousnesses of the humans around her perceived as a cavern.

It looked so powerful. It looked immovable and inevitable, eternal and fixed. But that was a Lie too.

She raised the collection of forces that a tiny, alien part of her called her hand and moved it thus, disrupting a narrow thread of light. Something wavered. A flaw in the vortex appeared, and she expanded it with her mind, with the mind of the Otherone, and the band of power around them began to move inward, constricting the vortex, squeezing it, destabilizing the ridiculous false construct of artificial spacetime around them.

The walls of the cavern began to shake. Great boulders dropped from the roof. Blood and Nectar spurted from the heart.

It has begunnn said a voice that wasn’t there.

The Thing stalked toward Geronimo. It chuckled ruthlessly as the senses that served it for perception watched the Spaniard grope around for his Sword. It moved closer and closer, towering over him, leaning over him to squash the life out this insignificant insect

Geronimo rolled over slightly, revealing the Sword clutched in his left hand. He slashed at the Thing’s knee, cutting cleanly through the tremendous leg of the creature. It stumbled and began to fall on top of him. Almost quicker than thought he pulled the Sword back, clutching it both hands and bracing it against the rocky floor.

The colossal being crashed to the ground on top of him, the Sword tearing through it like a spear. Geronimo could feel it twitching and shaking on top of him as his breath was crushed out of his body.

[Conceal test here by GP.]

Dr. Orange’s left arm was numb. He was reasonably sure his heart had stopped beating some time ago. It seemed obscurely interesting. All he knew was that somehow the power of the Liar was failing. He kept his will focused on crushing it.

Geronimo snaked one hand down to the pistol in his belt. He managed to somehow flip it over to face into the body of the creature, and pulled the trigger until the magazine was empty. It stopped shaking and he felt its great dead weight settle down on top of him. The blackness was all around him.

He refused to give in to it.

Jimmy regarded the Heart coldly. His mind was a furious bolt of golden energy, and he could feel his personality washing away into the stream of alien power. Blood and Nectar continued to flow from the wounded god. It was up to his ankles now.

A word formed in his mind. Maybe it was even his own thought.


Ruby could feel her body shutting down, already beginning to collapse to the ground, but she hung on, resisting the Nectar, resisting the unconsciousness, pushing all her will into one last constriction of force to close the gap to seal the breach in twentythreedimensional spacetime that the Other thecontagion the onewhoLies had forged and then it gave way, collapsing, waveforms falling back to baseline with a sigh of sinerhythms and it was done and over and the Mind released ITS hold on her…

The Heart exploded.

Blood and ichor rained out of it, but in slow motion. Rainbow streaks appeared at the edges of things. Everything slowed, stopped, faded to black…

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 6)

None of them really knew exactly what happened next. Jimmy mostly noticed that the air got strangely thicker and his headache rapidly got better. The moist air was redolent of the smell of Nectar, and thick mists blew around them. After a while, driven by the malign will of the Liar, they soon were separated, calling each other’s names, lost in a strange brick labyrinth.

Jimmy was the first to get his senses back. Pressing his hat down on his head, he began a circle search through the strange and twisted rooms of the labyrinth. He saw many horrors…but eventually found Millicent, in the most terrible room he had yet seen.

The floor of the room was thick with blood, slime, and sweat. The air was heavy and dense, humid and warm, and low moans and shrieks could be heard as if from far away or underground. Dangling from ropy cords of flesh were several bodies. At first glance they appeared to be human, but a closer inspection showed that they were all malformed—skin hanging loosely from their faces, or their features slowly losing their shape like dough springing back. Several had mouth-like orifices slowly gaping on their limbs or torso.

Millicent was standing in the middle of the room. Several of the ropy cords were attached to her, and slime covered her body. Her flesh pulsated disturbingly.

“I’ll get you out of this,” he said to her. He pulled on one of the fleshy ropes. She tried to hide how much it was hurting her.

“I could do the thing,” she said helpfully.

“Do not do the thing!” He pulled out his utility knife and began hacking the ropes free. Blood and slime poured out of them. Millicent bit her tongue and tried not to scream.

Finally he sliced through the last rope. He wiped off his forehead as Millicent stepped free, and turned around. One of the doughy body forms was dangling near him. He could see his own features begin to form on its face, down to the brim of his hat beginning to grow out of its forehead.

He smiled. The creature smiled back. Then Jimmy drew his pistol and put a hole in its head.

He and Millicent fled into the passageways.

After a long, timeless interval, they found Ruby.

She was standing in the middle of the room, a beckoning smile frozen on her face. All around them glowed a pink, pearly light. The heavy smell of Nectar permeated the air. On the floor and against the walls of the room were couples (and larger sets) of people copulating ecstatically. As they watched, some seemed to be slowly absorbed into the walls of the room, which were some kind of soft substance with an oily sheen. Sometimes too protuberances erupted slowly from the walls in the form of entwined human bodies.

[Hit Ruby with a Hard Driver to not drink Nectar.]

Jimmy reached out to grab her shoulder. Ruby swept it off. “Get away from me! I know you’re there! I can hear the whispers! You can’t make me drink it!”

“We can get her out of here without moving her,” said Millicent. Jimmy waved a finger menacingly at her.

“Ruby,” he said. “It’s Jimmy.”

“This is a place of lies, James,” said Ruby in a bored voice. “You’ll have to try a little bit harder than your name.”

“We had that absolutely ridiculous film setup, and I saved you from that occultist—well, you thought it was me, but it wasn’t. I would never mess up the shot. It was Geronimo. We have to go find him now.”

“He wants to marry you, remember?” said Millicent.

“That’s true,” said Ruby dubiously. “Let me cover my eyes.” She raised her prosthetic limb up over her face.

Jimmy grabbed her hand and they made their way toward the exit. Some of the bodies began to flow in their direction, blocking their way. Jimmy grimaced, drew his knife, and slashed them all viciously down.

Geronimo was the next one they found.

He was standing very still in the middle of a chamber that looked like the inside of a mouth; the walls were red and flesh and covered in saliva. Every surface of the room had multiple horrid lipless mouths sunken into it, bristling with broken, jagged teeth. Sometimes saw-edged tongues flicked out of these mouths, quickly like a lizard or slow as a snake on a cold day. Spittle fell smoking to the floor when they did. The air was horribly damp and still; the slightest tremor in it caused mouths to open and tongues to lash out.

“Geronimo, darling,” hissed Ruby.

“Where?” said Geronimo loudly. The Mouths began to whisper and chatter.

“Sound of my voice. Follow it.”

“You’re lying! I can’t give in!”

“It’s me, Ruby!”

“That is not the voice of my Ruby!”

“Geronimo,” said Ruby, crossly, “would you please listen to me and not the lying Elder God? We do not have time for anymore dilly-dallying. Do you understand me?”

“That is kind of like Ruby,” mused Geronimo.

“You wonderful, beautiful, obstinate pain in my ass, would you listen to my words? Stay put. We’re coming. Don’t slash at the first thing that feels like a human hand—I’m running a little low.”

Ruby and Millicent followed Jimmy as he carefully picked his way across the room. “Geronimo, it’s Jimmy. We’re coming.”

[Reassurance spend by JP here, followed by a Stealth check.]

The Mouths mostly remained quiescent. They had almost reached the exit when Ruby’s heel broke. Instantly they felt razor-sharp tongues lashing at them. Their clothes shredded under the assault, but they were able to make a last push out of the chamber and into the obscuring mist.

They wandered for a very long time after that before they found Dr. Orange.

He was standing, with a beatific grin on his face, in a room that seemed entirely made of mother of pearl. A dim light shone through the walls, creating a shadowless space where everything seemed to float. The floor, walls, and even ceiling had been waxed with a soft, translucent substance, making everything difficult to find purchase on. The entire room vibrated with the music and song of what could only be described as a heavenly choir—their wordless chants seemed to promise peace, rest, and infinite compassion.

“Dr. Orange,” said Geronimo.

“How did I get here?” said the German. “This room seems so different.”

“It’s probably a lie,” said Millicent.

“Well, we were separated, but now we’re all back together, that’s great,” said Dr. Orange.

“I think he’s a clone,” said Geronimo to Jimmy. “He’s too nice.”

“Do you guys hear that?” said the doctor. “I think if I stayed a while, I could understand it…but I guess it’s not what we’re here for.”

[Soft Driver on the Doc, who took the Stability loss.]

Jimmy closed his eyes, feeling the music wash over him. He could hear his own voice in the chorus, and Francis telling him how he was proud of him. He sighed.

“I haven’t talked to Francis in ten years,” he said to himself. “I keep saying we’re friends, but I don’t think it’s true anymore.” He began moving toward the exit.

[Same for Jimmy—a refused Soft Driver.]

Ruby realized, as she stood in the pure white light, that for the first time in…forever, it seemed…she had absolutely no desire to consume Nectar.

Tears filled her eyes. “Either way I’m trapped, either here or by my addiction.” She moved forward.

[Also a Soft Driver!]

Millicent, for what it was worth, felt absolutely normal. “That’s the greatest lie of all,” she said, and left with the rest.

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 5)

It happened all at once. The silent stone was suddenly flesh, the figures already moving into action. Two she recognized almost immediately, from her research on the mountain: assuredly the man in the simple robes with the wooden prayer beads tied around his wrist was Milarepa, the saint, while the man in the more ornate robes heavily inscribed with Tibetan characters could only be his old opponent, Naro Bön-Chung.

Jimmy’s training in the occult and world mythology helped him identify the other two: the thin ascetic looked a lot like the depictions of Rishabha, the founder of Jainism, while the blue-skinned man with the bow looked like any number of paintings of Rudra he had seen.

Milarepa jumped off his podium and almost faster than the eye could see launched himself at Ruby, pushing her backwards across the snow and ice. She could barely stay upright as she skidded backwards toward a precipice. She struck out blindly with her artificial arm, connecting with the flesh of the saint. He vanished in a blur of speed and she fell to the ground, the ice axe attached to her arm embedding itself in the glacier, arresting her fall at the very edge of the void.

Geronimo had already swept out his sword. He raised it and began to stalk toward Rishabha. The figure of the Jain looked at him, eyes burning like coals, and Geronimo lowered his sword. The profound depths of ahimsa, non-violence, enfolded him and for the first time in a long while he felt at peace.

[This was a soft driver against one of Geronimo’s Statements.]

Dr. Orange was struck by an arrow; it grazed his side, causing quite a bit of blood to spurt onto the snow. Rudra was perched on a spur of rock, balancing on one foot, already drawing back his recurved composite bow. Dr. Orange pulled out his pistol and pumped a couple of rounds into the figure of the deity, who, unperturbed, began to open his third eye.

“This is madness,” said Jimmy. "We can’t shoot our way out of it. Think! We need to sacrifice to them! Or find a spell to get rid of them!

[I gave them this based on their high amount of training, and because it’s more fun for them to try and fulfill the conditions for the dismissal of the Guardians that I wrote.]

Ruby stared at Rishabha. She knew what she must do.

“I renounce the use of weapons today,” she said, and bowed.

Rishabha folded his hands in a peace symbol and froze back into stone.

She turned to Geronimo. “Shiva is a god of sexuality and death,” she said to Geronimo, stalking toward him. “Get ready to join the mile-high club.”

What?” said Geronimo.

Jimmy danced back as Naro Bön-Chung unleashed a gout of fire from his hands. Somewhere in the driving snow Milarepa was racing around. “Doc!” he shouted.

Ja, I see,” said Dr. Orange. “What do you think will get rid of him.”

“He’s a sorcerer! Maybe we have to accept magic!”

“That’s ridiculous! That’s…” Dr. Orange stopped in place. “Wait…magic…it’s been working all along…I…physics is wrong!”

[Naro Bön-Chung’s sacrifice was a point of Sanity.]

Milarepa came to a sudden stop in front of Jimmy. His mind raced…Milarepa had been a practitioner of tantric Buddhism, of radical renunciation…

Without a word, he handed him his rabbit’s foot. The saint bowed, and froze into stone.

[JP made a Cthulhu Mythos spend to get the last two sacrifices; Milarepa’s was “voluntarily sacrifice a Source of Stability.” All of them also had rituals to dismiss them, but nobody went for those.]

Jimmy stalked back to the others, who were trying to watch-without-looking Geronimo and Ruby rolling around in the snow. “When they’re done, follow me,” he said to the rest and began limping up the staircase.

The stone was obsidian, maybe, or perhaps some kind of alien substance. Certainly it was slick and hard to climb. The others soon caught up to him, Geronimo with a sheepishly guilty look on his face.

[Twas a TN 3 Athletics check to make it to the top. They were still at 6700 meters.]

They climbed higher and higher, often on all fours. Below them they could see Satan waving at them. They turned back and after a long time they reached the summit. An open-faced structure, remarkably like the top of the pyramid of Chichen Xochul. They crawled inside, out of the wind, and began tending to their wounds.

It didn’t take Millicent long to find the same altar mechanism they had found in the Yucatan. They filled the bowl with snow until it sprang the trap door, and crawled down into a room that was very familiar.

Through slits in the walls they could see the towering mountains around them.

Jimmy leaned against the wall. The pain in his head was blinding. Dr. Orange slapped him on his back. “Cheer up, Jimmy. We’d never have gotten this far without you. You’re the only one who has dealt with anything like this before.”

Jimmy shook his head. It hurt when he did that too. “That man is dead.”

[Jimmy’s new Statement is “The man I was is dead.” Since he gave up his Symbol, I could drive this Statement, but he couldn’t recover anything from it.

This bit is me papering over Psychoanalytic Triage done by the Doc.]

There was something by his foot. He reached down and picked up a very corroded coin. He used his penknife to cut some of the verdigris off of it.

It was a 1937 US penny…but one that looked at least two thousand years old.

“Mr. Wright, come and look,” shouted Millicent. Jimmy dragged himself over to the center of the room. Cut into the floor was a hole, shaped like a giant, lipless, fanged mouth. Jagged teeth covered the entire shaft as far as their light could reach.

They rigged up a hoist and lowered themselves down the pit slowly, lanterns first. Below them they could see the outlines of an enormous labyrinth, shrouded in mist…

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 4)

After many days of hiking, they reached Darchen, the last town before Mount Kailash. Like much of the Tibetan plateau, the land was flat and brown and surrounded by high mountains. Darchen itself was a small camp surrounded by pilgrims and their tents, with prayer flags flapping in the bitter winds.

Ahead of them they saw two lakes, Rakshastal and Manasarovar, the salty lake of the demon and the crystal clear holy lake. Behind them loomed the hunchbacked prominence of Mount Kailash, like shark’s tooth or a ship’s prow thrust into the light of the rising sun.

“Bathing in the waters of Manasarovar is supposed to wash away sins,” Satan told them. "You may do so, after a brief prayer ceremony.

Geronimo was the first volunteer. He waded out into the freezing water and stood in the cold sunlight, waiting. Then he turned back to the shore.

“What did you see?” asked Ruby.

Geronimo smiled and caressed her face. “That we will be fine. Together.”

Ruby watched him walk away, then waded out herself. “I want…” she thought, “I want to see my daughter graduating from school. That she’ll be all right…”

She looked down at her reflection and inhaled sharply. Her image still had a left arm, and seemed to be regarding her curiously. Then the breeze picked up and her reflection vanished.

Dr. Orange didn’t expect to see anything; he was a man of science. It wasn’t until he turned back for shore that he saw something out of the ordinary. For a moment, his vision grew unstable and he saw everything as if there were hundreds of images superimposed on each other, each one just slightly out of synch with the rest. Then his eyes cleared and there was nothing but the barren plains and white sunlight.

When Millicent stood in the water, she had a vision. She saw everyone except Geronimo lying on the floor of the Xochul pyramid, unconscious.

[Stability refreshes here, as these hit against Statements. Everyone but Geronimo (who got 2) and Millicent (who got 0) got back a point of Stability.]

“We run short of time,” Satan intoned that night. “The monsoon will be coming soon. In India, it will rain. Here it will snow.”

Ruby was testing out the modified arm Dr. Orange had rigged up for her; it had an ascender attachment that would allow her to climb using her good arm. It also had an untested ice axe attachment.

“We could use that to our advantage,” continued the Sherpa. “It will be considerably easier for us to make the ascent undetected if we do it during a storm.”

“That’s insane,” said Jimmy. Satan shrugged.

[I offered them a chance to make the Stealth check easier by making the Athletics check harder for the first stage, but they didn’t bite.]

Their plan was to follow the Outer Kora, the prayer route around the mountain followed by pilgrims. It crossed at one point a high pass that Satan planned to use as the springboard for climbing up onto the eastern ridge; they could hide in the area during the night and then make their first attempt at night.

They rested a few days in Darchen to prepare. Dr. Orange convinced a group of pilgrims to let them meditate with them, and then make the Kora route with them.

[They took their Refuge refreshes here, since this is probably the last place you can do so. OP spent a point of Reassurance to get 2-points of Stability refreshed for everyone by meditating with some Buddhists.]

They set out with a group of pilgrims on the Outer Kora. It wasn’t hard to act like they couldn’t keep up with the Thibetans and Indians—mostly since it was hardly subterfuge; five thousand meters was still higher than they were really accustomed to, even after weeks in Thibet.

They let Satan guide them off the kora and up into the badlands and rugged terrain that surrounded the mountain itself. Following Millicent’s lead, they managed to keep themselves hidden from the passing groups of pilgrims and slowly ascend the long eastern spur of Mount Kailash. They made camp that night—hardly a cheery affair—in a low depression surrounded by boulders.

[Stealth check here by MP with everyone piggybacking…except Ruby, of course, who still has no Stealth.]

The next morning Jimmy awoke with a pounding headache. He felt sick to his stomach, and had trouble waking up fully. Satan soon confirmed his fears: he had altitude sickness.

[If you look at the handout, you can see I was trying out a three-tiered success system here in the style of Apocalypse World; this was one of the few places it hit, a partial on Millicent’s Stealth check resulted in Jimmy getting sick.]

Millicent set out to take the first pitch but Jimmy cut her off. “I’ll lead,” he said gruffly.

“But Mr. Wright—”

Jimmy shook her off and set out with Satan Sherpa. Breaking trail was an ordeal for him all that day, but he was able to rest during the stretches when they could cut across the ice ridges. The technically challenging climbing was still ahead of them.

They slowly made their way across the ice bridges and rock, the tumbling seracs and the gravelly remains of landslides. The mountain came closer and closer until after two grueling days they reached the lower slopes.

Geronimo did most of the cooking. He had somehow contrived to bring some dehydrated bisque that when mixed with rice tasted vaguely like—

“Himalayan paella?” said Ruby.

“For my queen, of course.”

He also brewed up some coca tea which was the only thing keeping Jimmy wired together. He had already begun to sneak hits off of his emergency oxygen.

Despite his illness, Jimmy helped break trail with Satan Sherpa the next morning, the first truly difficult climbing they had done so far. Sheer walls of rock surrounded them, but they managed to find belay points and pull themselves laboriously up meter by meter.

Millicent managed the rope supplies and proved a prodigy at finding their best routes, especially when they had to pull on crampons and do real ice climbing. This was the hardest for Ruby, and Geronimo ended up rigging a harness for her to his back and dragged her up the slippery cliffs.

At sunset of the second day they were perched precariously on a shoulder of the mountain, six thousand meters above sea level, at the edge of the final slopes that lead to the summit. Crumpled ridges lay below them as far as they could see, covered with snow that looked like peach ice cream in the dying light, drowning in deep seas of purple dusk.

Jimmy didn’t pay any attention to it at all. Pain pounded behind his eyes. He stared up at the myriad stars as they shone down mercilessly on him.

Long before dawn they began their summit bid. Only Satan was in good spirits, looking forward to conquering the sacred mountain. They crunched their way through the snowfields, picking their way over the rock outcrops, doing serious ice climbing only in the few places where the path dropped away.

Eventually, they came to a dell about a hundred meters below the summit. Jimmy and Satan reached it first, and waited to show what they had found. It was most unusual.

Around the lip of the dell were four statues, carved with incredible delicacy from the very bones of the mountain. They were men in robes, each in a different style. One of them had a bow.

“I think this is the place we need to cast the spell,” said Jimmy.

“You mean among the statues on the unclimbable mountains?” said Ruby. “Good bet.”

“I guess I’m up,” grumbled Dr. Orange. He unwrapped the parchment they had stolen in Malta. “Once again, may I point out that this is all bullshit? Physics indeed.”

[The TN to cast the spell was lower if you make a Physics spend.]

Jimmy began to read in a faltering voice from the parchment. Gradually his voice grew stronger, the syllables rolling off his tongue in ringing tones.

“Not his first rodeo, is it?” said Satan. Millicent nodded. She gathered around with the others and shed some blood into the snow.

Clouds began to gather around the mountain. There was an ozone smell in the air, and St. Elmo’s fire began to glow on the tips of their ice axes. As the wind picked up, Dr. Orange took out his compass and watched the needle spinning around rapidly.

They heard an enormous CRACK. The ice between them and the summit began to split and then widen, revealing a long flight of stairs. To Ruby’s experienced eyes, they bore a bizarre resemblance to the steps on the side of the pyramid in Chichen Xoxul. She moved forward a bit to take a closer look.

So it was that she was the first to see the statues come to life.

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 3)

They found Vanessa wandering around in a crowd of the Epsilon Sigmas outside the burning monastery, and gave her to the Sparrow’s British soldiers for safekeeping. After that, they headed west, into Thibet. Towards Kailash.

This took a while. They tramped the narrow ways of the high Himalayas, camping out in towns as they passed through them, gradually becoming acclimated to the 4000 meter altitude. They passed through Lhasa and stayed at an inn near a Buddhist shrine. Jimmy and Dr. Orange watched a sand painting being made the following day.

Millicent tried to have a talk with Jimmy about what had happened to her. “Was that my sister?” she asked.

“Uh…not exactly…”

“She was my body, right? With my brain taken out.”

“I guess. We shot her and she turned into a monster.”

“They buried her in that grave, the one that was supposed to be for the little girl…who has my face. Did you know Uncle Freddie killed a girl to do whatever you guys did? That’s just wrong!”

“Freddie and Francis would never have killed anyone. I guess they found a body and used it.”

“But…she came out of the grave. What is she going to do to Vanessa?”

“I don’t think you have to worry about her hunting her.”

“But she’s a little…you know…now…”

Jimmy repressed the urge to say something about now. “Vanessa is safe.”

“And my sister…if she’s not human, and not that dead girl…what is she?”

“We’ll have to find out.”

“What is my body made of?”

“I think you’ll be better off talking to Ruby about that.”

What a gentle heart our Millicent has!

Here she is worrying about some dead human (when even she has finally admitted that she is so much more than that), worrying about her sister, her mother…hell, even worrying about Jimmy, which is something even he didn’t bother to do about himself.

Worrying about everything, in fact, except the most crucial thing: that now she stood naked in the sight of the Dark Lord. And he was going to take an interest.

You could count on it.

They were going to need a guide; trying to climb an unclimbed Himalayan peak without a Sherpa would be more suicidal than even they were comfortable with. Like a lot of Germans of his generation, Dr. Orange was an alpinist and used that as a way to talk to as many of the local climbers as possible.

It soon became apparent that it would be impossible for them to find a shall we say conscientious guide interested in committing sacrilege against four major religions. The good doctor began to concentrate on the less savory climbers they met. In one village, he finally got a lead, from a grizzled old sharp boy who had been living fat on English expeditions for decades.

“The only person who would be crazy enough to even think about something like climbing Kailash would be a Sherpa who was on the Ruttledge expedition. Guy named Satan Sherpa.” He pronounced it with long aahs: Saahtaahn Sherpa. Dr. Orange’s eyes bugged a bit at the name, but he thanked the man and headed back to the others.

[Streetwise spend by OP. And yes, I did not make that name up, it’s in the Wikipedia article.]

“A long time ago,” Jimmy said one night, when they were bedding down in a Thibetan house, “there was a sorcerer’s duel near Mount Kailash. Between Naro Bön-Chung, who was a magician and priest of the Bön religion, and Milarepa, a Bodhisattva. They battled for days, but neither could get any advantage. Finally, they decided to race to the top of Mount Kailash. Naro Bön-Chung leapt into the air and flew towards the summit, while Milarepa remained seated in meditation at the base. But when Naro reached the top of the mountain, he found Milarepa sitting there.”

“So we should meditate to get to the top of the mountain?” said Millicent.

“I think that only works if you’re a Buddhist saint. Don’t get any ideas.”

[Occult use by JP.]

“There are two lakes below the mountain,” said Millicent, sharing her research. “One is called Manasarovar, it’s a freshwater lake. The waters are supposed to be sacred, and give blessing to anyone who bathes in them.”

Dr. Orange was going through a packet of papers that had been forwarded to him from Joy Grove. He stared at the photographs of Edgar Job’s scribblings on the walls of his room. They seemed to lay out, in precise detail, a theory of time travel; the math was very well worked out. One wall was filled with Job’s speculation on how to build a time machine (the materials were not immediately available) that gave Julius the feeling that he could unravel the mysteries of the Xochul pyramid’s time machine.

The last photos were the most chilling: Job laid out a great deal of theory of closed time-like loops, including tests to figure out whether or not one was actually inside one of them. But why was Job interested in such things?

[2 point Physics spend by OP; Doc Orange had been carrying around this packet for a while now.]

Jimmy and Millicent hired a guide to take them around and look for Satan Sherpa. They discovered there were a lot of stories about him, most dealing with his rather irrational behavior. Eventually, they tracked him down to a Buddhist monastery, where he was being imprisoned.

[Oral History spend by MP.]

“What did you do?” said Millicent when they were brought in to see him.

“What did I not do, memsahib!” said Satan. He was a short man with a small triangular beard, very black hair, and a potbelly. His arms looked powerful, the results of years of climbing.

“They have so many statues of the Buddha,” continued Satan. “So one broke. So I tried to sell one to foreigners. Is that a crime?”

“Yes!” said Millicent. Jimmy sighed and went to talk to the Abbot.

When they left the monastery his wallet was considerably lighter, but they brought Satan Sherpa with them.

[1-point Bargain spend.]

“So what do you need the services of a reprobate such as myself for?” asked Satan when he met the rest of them.

“That’s not a nice way to talk about your mother,” said Dr. Orange, to the bafflement of everyone.

“I’m afraid I don’t speak English…as poorly as you.”

“We want you to do something no God-fearing people would do,” said Millicent.

“We want to go to the top of Mount Kailash,” said Ruby.

“Mount Kailash…the holiest mountain in the world…the source of Mata Ganga, the holiest river in the world,” said Satan slowly. “You wish to get to the top of this mountain—the mountain God lives on?”

“Yes,” said everyone.

“Excellent. I myself wish to climb this mountain and show my arse to God.”

“I like him,” said Ruby.

“He has a certain je ne sais exactly what it is,” said Dr. Orange.

“God has done nothing for me,” said Satan. “If we meet Shiva on the mountain, I’m sure we can deal with him. I will tell you what you need. You will need rope. You will need equipment. You will need oxygen. These things I can find for you. You must only use the oxygen in an emergency. You will use the oxygen. Fortunately for you, when I was there with Sahib Rutledge I mapped a route to the shoulder of the mountain. We will climb in three phases. First is the ridge approach. This will take a day or three. Then we must ascend to the shoulder of the mountain; this will take another few days. Finally we will assault the summit itself. Are any of you especially susceptible to altitude sickness?”

“I have no idea,” said Millicent.

“We will find out.”

[At this point I handed out my Climbing Mount Kailash chart. I probably made this a bit too complicated—certainly the rules for altitude sickness could be cleaned up and simplified. In play the daily challenges weren’t that awesome or interesting—I modeled it after the Dungeon World “Take a Dangerous Journey” move, but that’s always been somewhat problematical for me in play. Still, there are the germs of some good ideas here that I might develop further given the chance.]

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 2)

The night of the ceremony was uncomfortable and embarrassing for Millicent. She wondered if they were always like this. She had to sit on an elaborately carved wooden throne on a dais, flanked by smaller thrones for Vanessa and Mirabelle. They were all wearing elaborate gowns and headdresses. Around them danced the women of Epsilon Sigma, chanting and singing, pausing frequently to give brief, anodyne testimonials. At one point they even handed out awards.

“Shouldn’t we be getting on with it already?” whispered Millicent at Mirabelle.

“You’ll get yours soon.”

At one point, however, the dance and the chanting took on a different character: the notes became lower, richer, with more convoluted harmonies. And she could feel something happening: some loosening of a tension that she had carried with her for so long that she hadn’t been aware of it until the moment it lessened. She felt as though a breeze of fresh air was washing over her, or like the sun had come out from behind a cloud…some revelation of what it was to truly feel.

And not far away, Jimmy felt the last vestiges of the binding and shielding spells he had put on Millicent eleven years ago crumble away.

It happened while they were approaching the monastery from above, according to their typically improvised plan. “The thing is, Geronimo,” Jimmy had told the Spaniard, “we have to go in and get her out…or she doesn’t come out at all. If we can’t get her out, then she’ll either die at their hands or ours. Let’s try to avoid that.”

“They’ve broken the safeguards,” he told the rest as they walked. “The things I put on her to keep her from being seen by Nyarlathotep.”

“Why don’t we steal robes and sneak in?” said Ruby.

“Because Doc Orange and I look terrible in lipstick,” said Jimmy. “Besides, you have a really memorable feature.”

[Stealth and Athletics checks came in here, with everyone piggybacking on both of them.]

They slid down the slope using ropes to brake and then swung down from the cliff onto one of the pagoda towers. As they ducked inside, they saw a thunderstorm moving rapidly up the valley toward them.

They made their way down until they came to a loft space directly above the gallery. They watched the dancing and chanting for a few minutes. To their surprise, people began to file out of the gallery, leaving only Millicent, Mirabelle, and Vanessa below.

Jimmy glanced up. Through the windows of the tower they had descended, he saw a white light drop down out of the thunderclouds. There was a flash of lightning, and then he heard something land on the roof with a heavy scrabble of claws.

A moment later that something jumped through the window and extended its iridescent scaled wings—four, at least—buzzing faster than the eye could track. It was about the height of a human being, but it had at least three pairs of legs descending from its bloated, segmented body. The head was a frightful congery of pincers, tentacles, and antennae, with two huge compound eyes that reflected the light back in broken prisms of horror.

Jimmy rolled over. “A Mi-Go,” he groaned. “I hate those guys.”

Mirabelle approached the alien and clapped her hands in a business-like manner. “C’mon, let’s get with the brain swapping,” she said.

Millicent began to scream.

The alien pressed a button on a small box mounted on its chest, which buzzed for a little bit and then barked out in a mechanical voice, “WE CANNOT DO THIS.”

“Why?” said Millicent.


Millicent gasped, and then fainted.

“What do you mean?” shouted Mirabelle, rounding on the alien. “How can she not be terrene matter?”


Up in the gallery, Jimmy whispered “What the hell?” to Ruby.

“It’s…possible for a dreamform to walk out of the Dreaming…” said Ruby. “I mean, Charlie told me that. She’d look just like a human, breathe, eat, everything…but…I know that she was a real human back when we met her. When did she change?”

[Cthulhu Mythos spend by RP, 2 point Stability loss.]

“Don’t know. Don’t care.” Jimmy chambered a round into his bolt-action rifle and shot Mirabelle.

It was a good shot, catching her center mass and knocking her back. But as she stumbled back, her form began to change, expanding, her human nature draining away as she began to morph into a hideous orange colored beast, ten feet long and roughly triangular, with five heads filled with pickets of sharp needle teeth running in random locations down her back. A long, sinewy, crimson tentacle lashed through the air in front of her, and two enormous, baleful yellow eyes gazed around from the apex of her body. A twitching mat of tentacles sprouted from the base of her body, pulling her forward, leaving a trail of glowing orange slime in her wake.

[This is the monstrous form of the spawn of Nyarlathotep from Masks of Nyarlathotep. I couldn’t find a place to have Mirabelle make an appearance this way when I ran that campaign, so I was happy to squeeze her in now.]

The Mirabelle-Monster looked up into the rafters. A hideous pink beam of some vile liquid shot out of her left eye, striking Geronimo and burning his arm. The caustic splash ate through the beams below him, and he dropped with a crash to the floor.

With a flurry of buzzing movement, the Mi-Go rose in the air and landed on the rafter beams near Jimmy. Ruby rolled over and shot it in the head, and it fell to the ground dead.

[I let players spend points before the roll to do extra damage; RP spent all Ruby’s Firearms to automatically hit and then do as much damage as possible.]

Dr. Orange took careful aim and plugged the Mirabelle-Monster in center mass, a peach of a shot that plowed a divot in its skin. The creature shrieked, shambled over to the window, and flowed back into human form. Mirabelle crawled through the window…and leapt into the night.

There was a hideous shriek from outside. Jimmy and Dr. Orange looked out of the nearest window in the attic. They saw an elephant-sized creature, some kind monstrous thing that looked like a cross between a pterodactyl and a plucked chicken. Jimmy groaned again. “Byakhee…I hate those guys too…”

“Look, more lights are coming down from the cloud,” said Dr. Orange. “And the monastery is on fire…based on the construction and prevailing winds, we had better try to get out to the southwest.”

[Physics spend by the Doc to know the best route to escape the fire; I gave the group a 3-Point “Escape the Monastery” pool.

I also seemed to have messed up here; I should have hit everyone with the Extra Mind Rending from seeing a monstrous form of Nyarlathotep.

I was experimenting with a system this session where if the roll was less than the TN you got a partial success; it didn’t work all that well, but I used it to generate some consequences.]

They all dropped down to the stage. Geronimo picked up Millicent and slung her over his back. Jimmy swept Ruby up and carried her out through the flames, choking on the thick smoke. As he followed them down one of the walkways above the central courtyard, Geronimo saw a couple of the monks and one of the women from Epsilon Sigma trapped behind a burning beam in a corner of the atrium.

“Help us!” the woman shrieked, tears streaming down her face.

Geronimo paused. He imagined he could hear a distant keening in his mind, the pull of the Sword to defend the helpless. He looked down on them, and whispered No.

He turned to follow the others, deaf to the screams behind him.

[Soft Driver on Geronimo’s Sword Statement; 2 points of Stability loss.]

Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 1)

The morning after they had killed both Montgomery Donovans, Ruby got up early and stepped out of the hotel the British had put them up in. It was another brilliant morning in Malta, the gorgeous white sunlight not yet hot as it lanced through the pellucid air. Ruby limped down to the docks to check on the Brightening Dawn.

She found several soldiers climbing over it, painting over the brilliant crimson color of the plane with dull gray paint. The Sparrow was supervising them. When she saw Ruby, she ambled over to shake her hand. “Good,” she said to the American, “you’re ready. We’ll leave as soon as the paint dries.”

“Leave? For where?’

“India. Where your friend is being taken.”

There was a long pause filled only by the cries of fishmongers and the shrieks of gulls.

“You see, I’ve done quite a bit of damage to your cause,” said the Sparrow apologetically. “I’m determined to repair that by putting my resources at your disposal. With Millicent’s people traveling by ship through the Suez Canal, we can steal a march on them—with relief crews, and using British airbases, we can get to Delhi several days in advance.”

“And then fly to Thibet?”

“Ah…no. There’s a point beyond which you have to walk. But don’t worry, you’ll have a few days to rest up. And there’s nothing like a good hike to restore your constitution!”

Ruby groaned.

The Sparrow was true to her word. They left at dawn the next day, and went through a whirlwind tour of the British Middle East: Cairo, Jerusalem, Tehran, Karachi…and finally Delhi. They took a train through the United Provinces as far north as they could, and then met their party of drovers and musk oxen for the long trip up and over the Tethys range.

As they drifted through the high villages, Ruby made a point of talking with the locals, even picking up a little of the various languages of the region. Over a meal of stew or rice, she always asked about the local monasteries, trying to suss out where Millicent was being taken.

In one village, the headman casually said, “You must be heading to our monastery.”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because a bunch of white ladies show up there from time to time. Usually more than one. I guess you’re important.”

“You have no idea.”

[Oral History spend by Ruby.]

For Millicent, the journey had gone past in a blur. Everyone around her was so deferential, so polite, so willing to please. She barely had to ask for anything before it came to her! She would have been happy…had it not been for her “sister”, who was going by the name of Mirabelle.

Mirabelle kept giving her discrete looks of pure hate.

When they reached the monastery—a cramped complex of wattled towers with pagoda roofs clinging to the side of a sheer cliff, a narrow valley thousands of feet below them—she finally got Mirabelle alone long enough to talk to her.

“You…you were dead…how are you alive? Not that I’m not glad, but how?”

“Not so easy to kill this body, I guess.”

“How long have you had it?”

“As long as you…haven’t.”

“So…I have your body, and you have mine?”

“Oh, no no no. You have my brain, and I’m going to take it back.”

“I don’t think it can be your brain…”

“No, I’m pretty sure it can be.”

[RP: This is a crazy person conversation!
Me: Not for Millicent…]

“So how do I have your brain?” asked a stunned Millicent.

“Somebody took it out.”

“Then…what brain do you have?”

“Odds and ends,” said Mirabelle with a wolfish grin.

“Then what came out of the grave?”

“A little girl’s body. But I got better. I was dead for a long time…but you know what they say, ‘That which is dead…’”

“So Uncle Freddy buried you in the ground?”

“That’s what Momma told me.”

On cue, Vanessa Brady swept in, wearing a long gown embroidered with esoteric symbols. “Girls, girls, please don’t argue. We’ve made so many mistakes! Why did I ever fear the Dark Lord? I was always his favorite! And now we’re finally all going to be together.”

Episode XIV: We Could Be Heroes... (Part 10)

They drove as fast as possible to the slip in the harbor the Sparrow had assured them the Royal Navy had parked the Brightening Dawn. While Geronimo cast off, Jimmy and Ruby made their way to the cockpit and rapidly ran the pre-flight checklist.

“Jimmy, you have to keep the manifold…” began Ruby.

“…pressure under 300. I know! I need…”

“Flaps! 10 degrees!”


In that manner they made their lurching way across the bay and staggered into the air. Jimmy turned the plane in broad circles until they sighted Nando’s yacht. He dove the plane at it, leveled off at the last possible moment, and then slammed the flying boat into the waves roughly. Chop tossed the plane back and forth as they came under the lee of the ship.

Jimmy unbuckled his seat, limped back to the hatch on the wing, and lurched across it until he could jump onto the yacht, followed by the rest.

“There’s three mercs on the boat,” he said. “Smythe, Xavier, and Nando. But which one?”

“You know what I say,” said Dr. Orange. “Kill them all and let god sort them out.”

Nando came up on deck. “Geronimo, you always make the most impressive entrances…holy shit!” He gaped at them. They were still covered in blood, slime, and dust.

Jimmy jabbed his pistol at Nando. “Santiago,” said Nando. “You look very determined.”

“No shit, Einstein,” said Jimmy. He glared into the Spaniard’s eyes.

Ruby put her hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. “It’s not him,” she whispered. “He’s perplexed, not deceptive.”

“Gracias, beautiful señorita,” said Nando.

“Not now, playboy.”

Jimmy pushed past them and thumped down below deck. Smythe came running up the companionway to meet him. “Thank God you’re here,” he said in his reedy English accent. “They’re….what on earth happened to you people?”

Jimmy shoved him up against the wall and held him there for a long moment. “Not him,” he said to the others.

[Assess Honesty spends by RP and JP.]

“Then Xavier,” said Ruby.

“The demolitions expert…” said Geronimo.

He’s going to blow up the ship, they all thought simultaneously.

“I sent him back to watch the boys,” said Smythe. “I moved Janet and Betty up to the front of the ship. What’s wrong?”

“He’s been bought off,” barked Jimmy, pushing past him.

“What?” exclaimed Smythe. “Damnit, Xavier. Damn your Irish hide!”

Jimmy rushed back to the wardroom Smythe had turned into a sickbay, kicked open the hatch, and then ducked inside the room. He saw Xavier cowering in one corner. On one of the bunks, Alexei, who had come out of his induced coma, was screaming wildly and straining at his restraints. Both he and the Irishman were staring at Monty Junior. The boy had somehow freed himself and was standing in the middle of the room, body wracked with a grand mal seizure. His head lolled back and forth sickeningly. His arms moved blindly towards Alexei, grasping at his throat.

[JP made a Sense Trouble roll, so this only cost 2 points of Stability.]

Without even thinking, Jimmy raised his gun. Geronimo grabbed his arm. “He’s just a child,” he said.

[Soft Driver against Jimmy’s “I want to be the man I used to be” Value!]

“Once you’re corrupted you’re gone!” said Jimmy.

As Ruby stared at Monty, she noticed his neck was growing longer…thinner…like it was straining to the breaking point…

And then it snapped. Monty’s head fell to the floor with a thudding sound. Slits appeared on his hands, gaping horribly, lined with teeth…

Geronimo’s sword swept out as if of its own volition and he hacked down at Monty’s body. Ruby drew her pistol at the same time and began pumping rounds into the ex-human. Jimmy grimaced and emptied his automatic pistol at Monty as well.

Dr. Orange shrieked and fired his own pistol into the shaking body of Monty, which collapsed and shook, leaking ichor. The German kept firing anyway until the pistol clicked on an empty chamber.

Jimmy popped a new magazine into his pistol and swiveled to face Xavier. The Irishman gulped, still shaking from what he had seen, and simply said: “He offered me a lot of money.”

Jimmy thumbed the hammer back on his pistol.

“He hasn’t done anything to betray us yet,” said Geronimo.

“Did you put any explosives on this boat?” said Ruby.

“Maybe a few,” said Xavier.

“I’ll go with you to disarm them,” said Dr. Orange.

They brought the ship back to harbor, where they were met by the Sparrow and a contingent of the Shore Patrol. She put them up for the night at the best hotel in Malta…with round the clock “protection” from the Secret Service.

Somehow a letter got through to them anyway, from Bethany Anne. It simply said, “Millicent is in Thibet.”

It was Ruby who put the pieces together. “Wait, isn’t there some kind of legend about Thibet?” she said to Jimmy. “Something about a mysterious alien being in Thibet? The Mi-Go?”

Jimmy shuddered. “Right. Yeah, they’re hardly abominable snowmen. I tangled with them once. They’re supposed to be able to put your brain into a cannister and take it with them into space…”

He stopped. “Brains…”

“Surgery!” said Ruby. “They must be perfect surgeons! Can they…can they put the brains back?”

“They’re supposed to.”

“And that means…that thing we saw, that memory of Millicent’s in the Yucatan…”

“That must have been Katakatak’s plan,” said Jimmy. “They put her brain in another body. So if they’re heading to the Mi-Go…”

“They’re going to put it back,” said Ruby.


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