(The scene: Chloe, Sousuke, and Random are riding through Shadow, on the track of Outsider Cultists.)
GM: The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, and the wild weeds, brambles and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; while the sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation.
Chloe: We stop and ask the local yokels if they've seen anyone matching our guy's description.
GM: Without knowing why, you hesitate to ask directions from the gnarled solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strewn meadows. Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do.
Random: Wait, wait, so these people feel wrong?
Chloe: I call up Pattern sight and have a look. Stealthed, of course.
Sousuke: Sousuke gazes warily at the figures, ready to call up the Logrus if needed.
GM: The natives are repellently decadent, having gone far along that path of retrogression so common in many New England backwaters. They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnameable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the two or three armigerous families which came from Salem in 1692, have kept somewhat above the general level of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only their names remain as a key to the origin they disgrace.
Chloe: ... so does that mean they have Outsider taint, or not?
Sousuke: Origin? Are these devolved Sidar, or Chaosians?
GM: No evidence of Outsider taint can be found... save perhaps for a particularly repellent foetor which makes the nose cringe with its hideousness. They are not Sidar, but a decayed and sadly devolved remnant of the old Dutch stock, whose mongrel descendants now squat under the gambrel roofs of houses of hideous age.
Random: A wha?
Chloe: Okay, so why would our tactics tell us not to talk to these people? Are they perhaps dupes or spies of the cult?
GM: Surely it is merely the rise in the road, bringing the mountains into view above the deep woods, that causes the feeling of strange uneasiness. The summits are too rounded and symmetrical to give a sense of comfort and naturalness, and sometimes the sky silhouettes with especial clearness the queer circles of tall stone pillars with which most of them are crowned. For while the loathesome squatters make you shudder with the degree to which their simian features mirror the primordial filth, can this not be explained by the repellant inbreeding for which this region is infamous?
Random: We're in REBMA?
Chloe: Okay, hold on, I'm confused... damnit. I guess you're just saying we have a bad feeling about them, right?
GM: Certainly, the eldrich feeling of dread before you, as if you stood upon the brink of vast, star-tainted gulfs of screaming elder chaos, cannot easily or rationally be explained.
Chloe: Hmm, right.
Sousuke: Let's just pick the least objectionable one and ask him.
Chloe: Cool, okay... find the most normal guy here.
GM: With a firm step, you approach the red faced, bushy-bearded, watery eyed old man in nondescript rags seated nearby on a bench. This, of course, must be Zadok Allen, the half-crazed, liquorish nonagenarian whose tales of this shadow were so hideous and incredible.
Chloe: "Good morning, sir. We were hoping to ask you a few questions about the area."
Sousuke: Sousuke bows respectfully.
Random: "Some whiskey in it for you..." She waves a bottle about invitingly.
GM: You begin putting out feelers as you walk amidst the omnipresent desolation and crazily tilted ruins, but find that the aged tongue does not loosen as quickly as you had expected. After an hour his furtive taciturnity shews signs of disappearing, but much to your disappointment he still sidetracks your questions about this place and its shadow-haunted past. He babbles of current topics, revealing a wide acquaintance with newspapers and a great tendency to philosophise in a sententious village fashion. Then, however, chance makes the opening which your questions had been unable to make; and the wheezing ancient's rambling take a turn that cause you to lean forward and listen alertly.
"Thar's whar it all begun - that cursed place of all wickedness whar the deep water starts. Gate o' hell - sheer drop daown to a bottom no saoundin'-line kin tech. Ol' Cap'n Obed done it - him that faound aout more'n was good fer him in the Saouth Sea islands. Then's the time Obed he begun a-cursin' at the folks fer bein' dull sheep an' prayin' to a Serpent as didn't help 'em none. He told 'em he'd knowed o' folks as prayed to gods that give somethin' ye reely need, an' says ef a good bunch o' men ud stand by him, he cud mebbe get a holt o' sarten paowers as ud bring plenty o' fish an' quite a bit of gold an' jools."
The old man's whisper grows fainter, and you find yourselves shuddering at the terrible and sincere portentousness of his intonation, even though you know his tale can be nothing but drunken phantasy.
Chloe: Oh, he's lying? Okay, let's go.
Sousuke: Sousuke frowns.
GM: The insane yarn you are hearing interests you profoundly, for you fancy there is contained within it a sort of crude allegory based upon the strangeness of this shadow and elaborated by an imagination at once creative and full of scraps of exotic legend. Not for a moment do you believe that the tale had any really substantial foundation; but none the less the account held a hint of genuine terror if only because it brought in references to strange jewels clearly akin to the malign tiara you had seen in House Fomorian. Perhaps the ornaments had, after all, come from some strange part of Chaos; and possibly the wild stories were lies of the bygone Obed himself rather than of this antique toper.
Random: Oooooo, connection to that tiara....
Chloe: I dunno. Chloe asks him if he's seen any signs of the cultists.
GM: "Curse ye, dun't set thar a'starin' at me with them eyes! Haow'd ye like to he livin' in a taown like this, with everything a-rottin' an' dyin', an' boarded-up monsters crawlin' an' bleatin' an' barkin' an' hoppin' araoun' black cellars an' attics every way ye turn? Hey? Haow'd ye like to hear the haowlin' night arter night from the churches an' Order o' Dagon Hall, an' know what's doin' part o' the haowlin'? Haow'd ye like to hear what comes from that awful reef every May-Eve an' Hallowmass? Hey? Think the old man's crazy, eh? Wal, Sir, let me tell ye that ain't the wust! Ia, Ia, Cthulhu Ftaghn!"
Chloe: Shit! Chloe calls up static Pattern Defence.
Sousuke: Logrus up, pin his arms with tendrils, knock him out.
Random: Random draws Shabazz and uses her GREAT TACTICAL WANG to try and figure out what Drinky called up.
GM: Poor Allen is easily subdued, his aged frame crumbling under your blows despite his hysterical frenzy. He is clearly just a demented ancient, yet old Zadok's insane earnestness and horror had communicated to you a mounting unrest which joins with your earlier sense of loathing for the town and its blight of intangible shadow.
Chloe: He was using Outsider sorcery! The hell he's just an old guy. We eat his brain, see what we can find.
Sousuke: Are you sure that's safe?
Chloe: ...hm. What kind of psyche did Zadok look to have?
GM: The vile humours that inform his fevered brain are without doubt beyond the capacity of a sane human mind to encapsulate... mercifully so!
Chloe: Gah, good call, Travis.
Random: Risk a trump? Or put him out of his misery?
Sousuke: Hmm... do we really want to just kill him out of hand?
Chloe: I don't want to be questioning him if he's going to start tossing around Outsider Sorcery; we still don't know what it is he did.
Random: Let's just kill the coot.
Chloe: Okay by me.
Sousuke: I suppose it's the merciful thing. Sousuke puts him out of his misery, praying that the Serpent will give him peace.
Chloe: Okay, the drunk was talking about a ocean chasm of some sort... are we anywhere near the sea?
GM: Indeed. With offensive clearness comes the foul odour of fish and decay, bourne on a malignant breeze from the east.
Random: Saddle up, let's head east.
GM: Your narrow course begins to climb steeply, and you feel a singular sense of disquiet in looking at the lonely crest ahead where the rutted road-way meets the sky. It was as if you were about to keep on in your ascent, leaving the sane earth altogether and merging with the unknown arcana of upper air and cryptical sky. The smell of the sea takes on ominous implications. Here and there the ruins of wharves jut out from the shore to end in indeterminate rottenness, those farthest south seeming the most decayed. And far out at sea, despite a high tide, you glimpse a long, black line scarcely rising above the water yet carrying a suggestion of odd latent malignancy. This, you know, must be Devil Reef. As you look, a subtle, curious sense of beckoning seems superadded to the grim repulsion; and oddly enough, you this overtone more disturbing than the primary impression. Looming with terrible portent above all, hunched atop a cyclopean cliff, is a strange high grey house, gambrel-roofed and hung in a shroud of mist.
Sousuke: This may be the cult hideout.
Chloe: Okay... how about we stake the place out, and see what happens?
Random: Good plan, good plan.
GM: You settle down on a desolate crag, fortified with cheese-crackers and ginger wafers. Dark soon comes, a hideous stygian dark made ghastly by the corpse-light of the moon. Your position allows you to take in the sight of the sea, gorgeous in the burning moonlight at the cliff's end. Far out beyond the breakwater is the dim, dark line of Devil Reef, and as you glimpse it you cannot help thinking of all the hideous legends you have heard in the last twenty-four hours - legends which portrayed this ragged rock as a veritable gateway to realms of unfathomed horror and inconceivable abnormality.
Chloe: Okay. Anything happening?
GM: Then, without warning, you see the intermittent flashes of light on the distant reef. They are definite and unmistakable, and awake in your mind a blind horror beyond all rational proportion. Your muscle tighten for panic flight, held in only by a certain unconscious caution and half-hypnotic fascination, and of course by Random and Sousuke's shapeshifting.
Chloe: Chloe's hands tighten around her sword hilt.
Random: What does Random think that signal means?
GM: What obscene purpose it signaled is beyond man's ability to safely grapple with, and what follows marks the end, for whatever remains to you of life on the surface of this earth, of every vestige of mental peace and confidence in the integrity of nature and of the human mind. Nothing that you could have imagined - nothing, even, that you could have gathered had you credited old Zadok's crazy tale in the most literal way - would be in any way comparable to the demoniac, blasphemous reality that you now see - or believe you see. I have tied to hint what it was in order to postpone the horror of writing it down baldly for you, the players. Can it be possible that this universe has actually spawned such things; that human eyes have truly seen, as objective flesh, what man has hitherto known only in febrile phantasy and tenuous legend?
Random: Out with it, wossit, wossit???
GM: You see them in a limitless stream - flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating - urging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare! You think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They are mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs are scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads are the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never close. At the sides of their necks are palpitating gills, and their long paws are webbed. They hop irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. You are somehow glad that they have no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly wed to articulate speech, hold all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lack.
Chloe: ... oh for heaven's sake, it's just a bunch of Deep Ones. Unless Cthulhu's there too?
GM: Surely this cannot be... surely nature cannot allow such a blaspemous and foul perversion of herself! It would make life unbearable if this could actually be real! The most merciful thing in the universe, I think, is the inability of the Amberite mind to correlate all its contents. You live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that you should voyage far. The primal powers, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed you little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of your frightful position therein, that all shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. Just as you, faced with the unending, nauseous tide of abominations illumed so ghastily by the pale moon, shriek and run away idiotically, your screams soon dissolving into peals of hysterical laughter.
Chloe: Wait, wait, this makes no sense, dude. I've seen Yog-Sothoth and Daoloth twice. I've seen Azathoth. I've seen a half dozen Great Old Ones in the flesh. I freakin' went mano-a-mano with SHUB-NIGGURATH, IN PERSON. Why is Chloe screaming and running away from a bunch of servitors? Is there some sort of primal sorcery fear-spell being used?
Sousuke: That must be it.
Chloe: Damnit. Okay, we run towards the house you mentioned... we can use it as a defensive position if they charge.
GM: Into that yawning black portal you charge, with shuffling, horrid sounds behind you! Shrieking, you charge through nightmare stygian gulfs, while the howls of something unknowable echo in your fever-crazed ears! And what, what is that sound that ever pursues you? It is the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead you on even unto those grinning caverns of earth's centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly in the darkness to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players!
Random: ... wait, wait, we killed him in TAMD, yes?
Chloe: ... I thought we did.
GM: Even now, locked in your padded room in Castle Amber, you can hear them. When you speak of poor Yurika they accuse you of this hideous thing, this rending and tearing of her flesh for a hideous banquet, but they must know that you did not do it. They must know it was the rats; the slithering scurrying rats whose scampering will never let you sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the padding in this room and beckon you down to greater horrors than you have ever known; the rats they can never hear; the rats, the rats in the walls, the rats in the walls.
Chloe: Can we have John back please?