From Tatters of the King
Session Report - Played Monday 25th September, 2006
Thursday February 16th 1930
A quick count shows there are somewhere between 50 and 100 caves spread across the cliffs at heights between 30 and 150 feet about the valley floor. The investigators cross the valley for a closer look. En route they locate the remnants of the Italian expedition’s campsite and nearby a large flat stone stained with a large amount of blood. Though the blood is not fresh, nor is it more than a few weeks old.
Following a trail of blood spots Withers locates a fresh cairn under which it is assumed a body has been buried. The investigators discuss disturbing the dead, but decide against it.
Browne and Saunders climb up to the nearest cave. It is worn smooth as if by centuries of feet and leads to a small chamber whose walls are covered in thousands of tally marks in groups of nine. In the centre of the chamber is a small pile of bones which appear to be mix of birds and human finger bones.
Umberto thinks he catches a glimpse of something from the corner of his eye and sees a stone falling down the cliff. He climbs to where he thinks it came from and discovers a cave with a narrow crawlspace heading back into the cliff. He thinks better of crawling inside.
Several more caves are explored before night falls. Saunders finds a small pit filled with strips of dried human scalps. Other caves are connected by internal tunnels, but there is no sign of life or of fresh activity, and no further sign of Quarrie or his companions.
The investigators camp for the night in the first cave they had explored. During the night both Browne and Umberto have dreams of bestial savagery which feel like the intrusions of an alien intelligence, but which have none of the terrible beauty of Hastur. Each of them awakens, heart pounding.
Friday February 17th 1930
As dawn approaches, Umberto is on watch, and it is he who first hears a disturbing human sobbing sound coming from a cave mouth high above the campsite. Taking his gun and a torch, Umberto climbs to investigate, waking nobody else.
When Saunders wakes up, Umberto is gone. He wakes the others and they hear the sobbing sound. Taking their packs and their weapons they clamber up towards the noise and enter the cave from which it issues. In leads into a tunnel that twists through the rock until a pale glow can be seen in the distance. The sobbing, oddly, is fading, but as it fades the deep slow heartbeat sound heard by Browne the day before is clearly audible to all.
Nervously the party edges forward as the passage opens up into a large chamber dominated by an archway on the far side which is lit up with a pearly glow. Beyond the arch can be seen the silhouette of a vast immobile bulk, a great squatting buddha with the head of an elephant, over the surface of which smaller creatures scurry. Despite the lack of any clarity in the image it is very disturbing.
There are two other entrances into the chamber and it is through one of these that Umberto now emerges, being held at spear-point by a hideous black-skinned humanoid. The creature is a mass of naked muscle, but only 4ft tall. Its bald head is misshapen, its features inhuman. Before anyone can react a dozen more of the creatures emerge from the other entrance, and from behind the investigators can be heard many more, who have clearly entered the tunnel that they are using.
The creatures do not speak, but from the archway emerges a man - or rather what remains of a man. Despite his hideous injuries and bizarre deformities, this appears to be Anzalone. Naked, with his eyes put out, his mouth a drooling, bloody, toothless hole and most horrible of all his nose and ears stretched, ragged and moving on their own in sick parody of the trunk and ears of an elephant.
Moving as one, Withers and Browne raise their guns and fire - their decision an instinctive reaction to put an end to Anzalone's obvious misery. Brownes's goes wide but Wither's bullet is true and the ruin that was once Anzalone falls twitching to the floor. The black creatures, clearly having never encountered firearms, swarm over the investigators. Saunders fails to get a shot off, but both Withers and Browne shoot a couple dead before they are disarmed. The creatures show no anger or distress at the deaths of some of their number, and do no violence to the investigators beyond disarming them.
The apparent chief of the creatures goes to Anzalone's corpse and examines it in apparent annoyance, then gives an order in a language that sounds vaguely Tibetan. Umberto is dragged over towards the gate and his hand held out. The chief uses a knife to cut his hand open and then paints a crude Yellow Sign on the wall beside the gate using Umberto's bloody palm.
The light from the gate changes to a pale cold blue, and the shadow of Chaugnar Faughn (as Umberto will shortly identify it to his companions) disappears.
The helpless investigators are forced through the gate, where a horrible high pitched whistling overwhelms their senses. The time spent travelling through the gate seems simultaneously mere seconds and endless aeons. As the sound fades the investigators find themselves standing in the middle of an endless icy plain under a starlit sky. They are still surrounded by the black humanoids, and there in front of them, with his own retinue of the creatures, stands Malcolm Quarrie.
NB: Whilst in Leng the investigators' watches refuse to keep time in any consistent manner. Within a few hours nobody has any idea how long they have been there, their very sense of time has become unreliable.
Astonished at the appearance of Westerners, Quarrie is full of questions. He soon discovers the gist of their purpose and how it was they came to be here. He is unsurprised, and not unhappy, to discover that Bacon and Edwards are dead, and pleased to find that Roby reached Carcosa and that his wife and daughter are well.
He answers the investigators' questions, explaining how the black humanoids, who he calls the Tcho-Tcho worship the elephant god Chaugnar Faughn and have waited centuries for the White Acolyte believing that he will bring Chaugnar Faughn to Earth. In truth it was the King in Yellow who tricked them long ago into believing this, for it is the King that awaits the Acolyte.
He explains how Carlo Schippone, maddened by the dreams of the elephant god, slew Major Delnegro in the night and fled and how Anzalone was taken by the Tcho-Tcho to be Chaugnar Faughn's companion as had been promised to them long ago. Quarrie regrets the deaths of the rest of his expedition, but believes their sacrifice worthwhile.
He explains that one of the five people here now must be the White Acolyte, though obviously he hopes that he himself will be the one. The Tcho-Tcho are ready to leave now - they are to go to 'the Upper House', the place where the King will come down from Aldebaran to Leng. The task of the Acolyte will be to lead him from there to Earth. Rather disturbing ideas occur to the investigators and Withers and Saunders avoid looking in Nathaniel Browne's direction.
Quarrie is erudite, charming and has a pleasant nature, but he is absolutely immovable in his resolve to guide the King to Earth. Bereft of any way back to their homes, the investigators agree to travel with Quarrie, as yet undecided on how to deal with him. As the strange party of humans and Tcho-Tcho starts its trek across the cold wastes of Leng, the investigators start to work on trying to convince Quarrie that what he aims to do is misguided and terribly dangerous. He sees this as a test of faith and sets about trying to convince the others, especially Browne of the rightness of his cause.
Several hours into the trek across the featureless waste a great flying creature appears in the distance. As it gets closer its true size and hideous appearance becomes obvious. Even though Saunders still carries a revolver (the Tcho-Tcho didn't recognise this as a weapon and only took longarms) he decides against drawing it now, as the Tcho-Tcho would likely seize it. The monster screeches and dives at the group. Most dive to the ground, but Withers tries to seize a spear from a Tcho-Tcho and as they grapple for the weapon the great alien bird snatches the Tcho-Tcho and flies up with its prey. there is a crunch, a spray of blood and the Tcho-Tcho's severed head falls, striking Withers on the way down.
"Amazing," says Quarrie, "A shantak bird. this truly must be Leng!"
The Tcho-Tcho chief picks up the severed head and as the group moves on, begins to chew lumps off of it. The humans decide not to look.
The trek continues for hours, and the investigators and Quarrie are exhausted. Saunders is suffering especially badly, having not yet recovered from the trip to Drakmar. Browne realises that they are heading towards a bright star close to the horizon. he points it out to Quarrie and they agree it must be Albebaran. "I feel like I have been travelling toward it for the last year and a half" sighs Browne, "Much longer for me, my friend, much longer..." replies Quarrie. As they continue, it is Browne who first notices that Aldebaran has dipped behind some sort of a structure on the horizon. The Upper House is, at last, in sight.
The Upper House
The building is unspectacular. A square structure about 250 yards along a side and 20 yards high with sloping walls and a flat roof. Built of white stone and with a single wide doorway in the middle of the wall that the investigators are approaching.
A ring of plain obelisks surrounds the Upper House at a distance of a few hundred feet and theTcho-Tcho do not cross the line of this circle. Quarrie, excited that his destination lies ahead, hurries forward and the investigators follow at once lest Quarrie get far enough ahead to lose them.
The five men enter the structure. The doorway gapes open into a wide corridor whose floor slopes slightly downward and whose walls are painted with images of alien beings in vast cyclopean cities. When they look back, a few tens of feet into the building, the investigators see that instead of the exit, all that lies behind them is an endless stretch of corridor. It is clear that the normal laws and space and time do not apply in this place. Browne hurries to keep up with Quarrie while Saunders and Umberto whisper to each other conspiratorially. A faint piping sound can be heard far ahead, and Quarrie heads toward it without hesitation. The others follow.
The Upper House proves to be vast and complex. For hours the investigators and Quarrie wander great halls and vaults with only the light of their flashlights to pierce the blackness. They encounter a great stairway into the earth but give up on its descent after 10 minutes. They decide to always try to move upwards where possible.
They reach a great chasm crossed by a narrow bridge, but, as Browne insists on not crossing, they instead choose to climb the wall behind them by way of a winding stair, only to find that the chamber at the top leads back to the very same bridge and very same stair. Saunders makes a mental note to tell his friend Professor Tolkien about this place.
They camp twice to get rest and to eat and quiet discussions on what to do take place. Both Brown and Withers, although agreeing that Quarrie seems currently unreachable, think that he is still a pleasant, unarmed and unthreatening man and do not wish to take precipitative action. Withers is however prepared to take drastic measures should there truly be no other option. He still shrinks from the thought of cold blooded murder and hopes that Quarrie, like Roby before him, might finally see something which removes the rose coloured spectacles from his eyes and makes him willing to lend his skills to preventing that which he is currently working towards. Umberto, on the other hand, grows more convinced that God has clear instructions for him to prevent what is occurring and works on the undecided Saunders who, he has realised, is carrying the party's only remaining revolver.
It is on the second of these stops that Umberto takes drastic action. He wakes to see Quarrie deep in conversation with Browne, who is finding Malcolm's arguments more and more convincing. Remembering Carlo Schippone's account of the use of sorcery to turn the mind of major Delnegro, Umberto realises that Quarrie is more dangerous than he looks. He makes the decision to take an action long delayed.
Umberto requests, and is given, the gun that Saunders is carrying, he stands up, casually walks over to Quarrie and, without warning, puts a bullet through his brain. Blood and brain matter sprays over Browne, who leaps to his feet, the yellow-signed knife suddenly in his hand, and advances on Umberto, before suddenly coming to his senses and dropping the knife. He realises that Quarrie had been successful in doing that which Crowley had failed to do at Marx's tomb, though the influence has retreated with Quarrie's death.
There is a tense standoff as Browne argues that his mind is clear and urges Umberto to surrender his weapon. Withers takes Umberto's revolver, greatly regretting that he hadn't realised what the Italian was doing, but determined to keep it out of the hands of a man he is increasingly coming to see as mentally unstable at the very least, and perhaps a direct threat to the safety of them all.
Despite the shock of Umberto's act the other three do not yet challenge him on it - certainly the possibility that force would have to be used to stop Quarrie had occurred to them all, but none had thought of resorting to such cold-blooded murder . The investigators move on, leaving Quarrie's body behind, as they have no way to bury him. Soon they hear the pipes again, and start to feel they are making progress.
Eventually they pass through a chamber they have already seen, but this time there is a stairway up that was not there before. They have been wandering through the Upper House for an indeterminate time, but it could well be 2 or even 3 days. They are exhausted, but this discovery brings new hope.
The Plaza of the King
The stairs lead up to a broad open plaza under a starlit sky. Aldebaran, low in the sky, reflects from the polished stones. The piping has stopped, but upon the ground is found a set of pipes carved with the likeness of several Byakhee.
On the far side of the plaza stand a pair of ornate pillars, with a great stone lectern next to them. As the investigators look around for a clue about what to do next a figure appears between the pillars. There is no arrival, he is just there, and somehow he always was.
It is a figure like a very tall, very thin man in flowing, tattered yellow robes that move in a non-existent breeze. There is no face visible within his hood. he does not speak but everyone knows who, or what, he is.
The King in Yellow has stepped down from Aldebaran.
Continue to Session 16.
Link to come...