From Tatters of the King
Session Report - Played Monday 2nd October, 2006
The Upper House - February 1930
The King in Yellow appears standing beside the gate. He was not seen to pass through it.
The King does not speak, but all hear his words in their minds:
GREETINGS PILGRIMS I AM THE KING IN YELLOW WHICH OF YOU HAS COME TO GUIDE ME
THE WHITE ACOLYTE WILL BE MY HONOURED SERVANT MY HIGH PRIEST TO CARRY MY GOSPEL TO THE WORLD
Ahead of the others, Nathaniel stands, awestruck by the power and majesty of the being before him. This is his muse, the very personification of the driving force behind the last year and a half of his life. There seems nothing more important to him than to be the servant of this being, this god, this king. But he remembers. He remembers the deaths of Bacon, Edwards, and Quarrie. He remembers the grave of Frederick Bartlett, his friend. He remembers the horrors which have driven him and his friends across London, across England, across oceans and high mountains. He remembers his dream, the graveyard of the world. At last, finally and overwhelmingly, he remembers Francesca. His love is a greater thing than his art. His head moves slowly to the left, then to the right in slow, but unmistakable, denial. He passes the test. He will not serve. He will not be the White Acolyte.
Such is the power of the King in Yellow's presence that for a brief moment even Withers remains transfixed by his majesty and beauty. Of all his friends and companions Withers has always remained the most unaffected and unimpressed by the power of the dream they have been pursuing. Far, far removed from the positive revelry in sensation that Nathaniel Browne has abandoned himself to, and distant even from the professional curiosity about those people affected felt by his close friend Doctor Frederick Bartlett. Frederick! The thought of his friend snaps Withers out of his brief reverie - his dear friend was butchered by one of the servants, or heralds, or some damn thing serving the creature that stands before him now. How could he have allowed himself, even for a second, to waver in his purpose? That THING is a threat to every thing he holds dear and there is no damn way that George Withers is going to be the White Acolyte. He'd burn in hell first!
Recognising the King in Yellow from his dreams, for a second the majesty of the King makes Umberto doubt all he believes. Surely this reality is greater than any Christian myth? Then he realises that this being is the truth behind the story of Satan. This is the Lord of Lies, and Umberto will not be tempted.
Saunders has spent his adult life living a lie. His life has been a never-ending succession of compromises and half-truths. The majesty and glory of the King in Yellow offers certainty, beauty and freedom. The veil lifts from his eyes and Saunders wants nothing more than to serve this being. Saunders realises that it is his destiny to be the White Acolyte.
The voice in his head urges him to be it's servant, but Nathaniel Browne again denies it. The voice says "ONE OF THESE OTHERS LOVES ME". Nathaniel turns to his companions, a look of deep worry sketched on his face. "Remember Franscesca" begs Withers. "I know" replies Browne, "It's not me I'm worried about". Umberto begins to move toward the King, his right hand grasping the symbol around his neck. He is closely followed by Withers. Browne intercepts, raising a hand to block his path, "No, I don't think so" he says. Umberto looks bewilderedly at Browne. "What are you doing?" asks Browne. "That is the apparition!" replies Umberto. "The King?" enquires Browne, confused. "No king of mine" replies Umberto in a firm voice.
Suddenly, Withers notices that Saunders, uninvolved in this confrontation, has moved forward - a vacant, rapt, expression on his face - and has almost reached the imposing figure of the King! "Saunders!" shouts Withers, realizing he cannot reach his friend in time. Saunders appears to struggle against an irresistible pull, "Shoot me Withers, shoot me!" he begs. Withers draws his revolver, carefully aiming for the Scotsman's legs. Click! The round is a dud! Hastily Withers makes to fire again, but he is too late - Saunders' outstretched arm makes contact with the spectre's robe, the king's unseen eyes seem to bore into those of Withers, Browne and Umberto and they stand, paralyzed. Unable to move under the king's unearthly gaze, the others can only watch and listen.
A change comes across Saunders' expression. It is obvious that his infatuation with the King in Yellow is fading fast. "No", the sound seems torn from the Scot's throat, a few seconds later "No, you'll destroy it!" and finally, in total denial, "NO!". At this third declaration, the others find they can move again, but before they can react, the King in Yellow spins, becoming a whirlwind of yellow. The tatters of his robe hit Saunders and, before their horrified eyes, the others see Saunders torn apart, a gout of red stained gore spreads across the floor. Withers fires, his bullet passing harmlessly through the whirlwind of colour.
The King in Yellow reforms. His voice fills their heads once more: WILL ONE OF YOU GUIDE ME. "Go to Carcosa, it's where you belong!" says withers, 'Nooo!!" shouts Umberto, "By the Lord's name I shall not!", Nathaniel remains silent. WILL YOU GUIDE ME the King asks again, his face looking straight at Nathaniel, "No!", he shouts. At this third denial, the King turns on the spot and vanishes.
While Browne moves forward to inspect the lectern next to the gate, Withers and Umberto approach what is left of Andrew Saunders. "I'm so sorry", intones Umberto, "it should have been me". "Oh, God" says Withers, "poor Saunders".
"The Yellow Sign!" - the sudden outburst from Browne breaks their reverie. "What?" says Withers. "This lectern", replies Browne, "it's just like the one in the cave where we came to this place". "You think it's somehow magical?" asks Withers. "Yes!" replies Browne. "Then let's get out of here!" shouts Withers. Browne nods, drawing the knife with the yellow sign pommel from his belt, he slices his palm and places it against the lectern. For over a year this sign has been the focus of his life, the tracing is perfect. The gate changes from misty white to blue. Nathaniel steps through. Immediately, a high-pitched keening noise begins to emit from the gate. There is a gasp of horror from Umberto. Withers turns and sees the King in Yellow, flying at high speed towards the gate. "Quickly!" he says, jumping through. The last thing he sees, as his face passes through the curtain of blue light, is the King's robed arm sweeping the bloody sign from the lectern.
Withers emerges from the gate and stumbles, yelping in pain. The skin has been stripped from the back of his trailing right leg, leaving it raw and bloody. Browne rushes forward to help. He glances up at the gate, finding it has returned to a misty white curtain through which can once again be seen the elephantine bulk of Chaugnar Faughn. The two have clearly returned to Mustang. Withers looks back at the gate in horror - Umberto has not followed them through! The fate of the world rests in the hands of a man they hardly know, nor trust.
Back in Leng, the gate snaps shut as the King wipes the blood away. The King advances on Umberto. WILL YOU AID ME "No!" reiterates Umberto, clutching at his holy symbol. I CANNOT LEAVE YOU HERE YOU WILL WAIT I WILL SEE YOU SOON The robes of the King flap up blocking Umberto's view and he finds himself in cold and solitary darkness.
Umberto flicks on his torch, finding himself in a large, flagstone floored chamber with four exits, one in each wall. This is clearly deep in the bowels of the Upper House. There is absolute silence. Careful to mark his route, Umberto explores his surroundings, finding himself back in the labyrinth of the Upper House. Without the piping to guide him and with no idea where he is, Umberto returns to the room the King left him in and prays.
After an hour or so, the King's voice again fills his head. YOUR FRIENDS ARE DEAD YOU ARE ALONE BUT YOU NEED NOT BE GUIDE ME TO YOUR WORLD AND YOU WILL BE MY CHOSEN ONE "Never!" says Umberto defiantly, "you will not break me, I serve a higher power!". At this, the presence leaves him. Some hours later, the King returns and asks again, and is again rebuffed, although Umberto can feel his resistance ebbing slowly away. The presence does not return for some hours, during which Umberto again prays. Finally, just a moment after the last power from his torch is gone and he is again left in total blackness, the voice again returns. DARK AND ALONE HUNGRY IT NEED NOT BE LIKE THIS GUIDE ME "No..., my...heart..lies...with...God!" this time Umberto barely resists the King's mental intrusions, delivering the words through gritted teeth. For a time beyond knowing, Umberto lies in the darkness. Finally, when all his food is gone and but a sip of water remains, Umberto realizes what he must do.
Umberto cradles the rifle in his lap.
"Dominus reget me et nihil mihi deerit." - "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want."
He takes a round from his pocket and lays it on the floor.
"In loco pascuae ibi; me conlocavit super aquam refectionis educavit me." - "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters"
He picks up the rifle in his left hand.
"Animam meam convertit deduxit me super semitas iustitiae propter nomen suum." - "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
He cranks the lever to open the breach.
"Nam et si ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis non timebo mala quoniam tu mecum es virga tua et baculus tuus ipsa me consolata sunt." - "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
He loads the round.
"Parasti in conspectu meo mensam adversus eos qui tribulant me inpinguasti in oleo caput meum et calix meus inebrians quam praeclarus est." - "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemes; thou annointest my headwith oil; my cup runneth over."
He cocks the rifle.
"Misericordia tua subsequitur me omnibus diebus vitae meae..." - "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."
He raises the barrel to his mouth, the toe of his right foot reaching for the trigger.
"Et ut inhabitem in domo Domini in longitudinem dierum." - "and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever."
A bang, a thump, then silence...
BOOOOMMMMM!!!! A huge explosion rocks the cave where the gate lay. Browne and Withers have given up waiting for Umberto. They hope beyond hope that he has somehow managed to defy the King, or lead him elsewhere and have determined to seal the cave to prevent others coming to free him. Withers initially wanted to use his dynamite to destroy the gate, but Browne thought it unwise as he felt it may break down the very walls of reality and bring Hastur, or something even worse, to Earth. The two argued about whether to collapse the cave or wait for Umberto to come out. At last they reached a compromise - they would wait as long as they could and then collapse the cave. That time limit has now expired.
The two stand now at the base of the rockface, watching the dust settle. They know that a mere barrier of rock will mean nothing if Umberto leads the King back to Earth. Nathaniel idly wonders what the natives might think if they hear the explosion, perhaps the voice of the gods. This may not be so far from the truth.
They make their way back to the Monastery at Te where they find Siva still waiting for them. He is surprised by their quick return and they come to realize that during their journey to Leng, no time has passed in this world. Fortunately, in their absence, the old guide has recovered somewhat from his wounds, he is not up to the journey down the mountain, but can wait alone at the monastery until help is sent. After another uneasy night at the Monastery, the troupe of three make their way wearily down the mountain. Withers and Browne wonder with every step whether the King will come through the portal, but the trip remains uneventful back through Nepal, and then through India to Bombay, where Francesca awaits, then on to London, and Delia. For better or worse, the adventure is over.
Continue to Aftermath.
Link to come...