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All of Arkham's a Stage and We Are Merely Players (Part 2)

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There Will Be Games
Arkham Horror King in Yellow
The Story Continues... 
All of Arkham's a Stage and We Are Merely Players (Part 2) 

Background:
The following session report illustrates a solo game of Arkham Horror using only "The King in Yellow" expansion. I chose to use the "Touring Performance" method due to the benefit of increased theme and mood. When playing with a Touring Performance, "The King in Yellow" cards are placed on top of their respective piles. Consequently, one will have to cycle through all TKiY cards before one gets to any of the base game items, spells, encounters, ect.
Instead of choosing randomly, I picked Hastur to be my nemesis, and I chose Harvey Walters (the professor) and Joe Diamond (the private eye) as my two characters. Joe's starting equipment included an Athame, a Press Pass, and the Speed skill. Harvey Walters began the game with The Book of the Believer, the Throne of Carcossa, the Speed skill, and the spells Summon the Beast Within, and Arcane Insight.
I was very pleased with my initial draws for my characters. The Press Pass is possibly the most useful common item in the game, and Arcane Insight is probably the best game-breaking spell. (The combination of the two might even allow me to win by sealing gates). The extra movement generated by Speed and Summon the Beast Within could make the difference between success and failure. I confess that I had high hopes for my intrepid investigators.

The Story Continues:

__ I cannot recall my old, frail frame ever feeling this vital. I ran through practically half of Arkham before I saw the grounds of the church. Once within the grounds, unexpected sounds of violence served as a sobering splash to my displaced thoughts.
__ My God, that could only be Father Michael, prostrate on the ground near the narthex. He was being brutally beaten by an unknown assailant! Immediately focusing on this crime, and I ran to intercede. The attacker, noting my sudden appearance, gave the father a final kick, then fled, vaulting over the adjoining hedges.
__ Not able to catch the fleeing blackguard, I moved to minister to the unfortunate priest.
__ "Who was that man?" I practically demanded of Father Michael.
__ "I... don't know," he managed to speak from bloodied lips.
__ I dressed his wounds as best as I could and put him in his bed.
__ Sitting next to him, I had little to do but contemplate my austere surroundings. Plain bed. Plain nightstand. A crucifex on the nightstand that possessed so many imperfections, it might have been made by a child. In fact, the only concession towards luxury in the house was a half-moon stained glass window located above the bed, and that was most likely installed by one of Father Michael's predecessors. What would compel a man to attempt to beat another man to death? Not just any man, but a well-regarded priest who was unthreatening, unassuming, and possessed of almost no wealth?
__ As it was now late, I dragged a cot from a nearby bedroom and pushed it in front of his door. I would sleep here tonight and keep watch over him. Selfishly, I wondered if the Good Lord would reward me for my dedication to one of his servants, or perhaps the calming vibrations of a house of worship would alleviate the aching I still had in my soul.
__ I spent the long hours of the night doing more research before sleep finally overtook me.

__ The next morning I cooked Father Michael some poached eggs and combined it with some hopefully manageable oatmeal and juice. He gratefully ate what he could, and when he was finished he lay back onto his bed.
__ Suddenly, his eyes popped open and his arm shot up to grip mine. My eyes were locked onto his penetrating gaze.
__ "Remember," he said. "A strong soul must be willing to make sacrifices."
__ Energy seemed to flow up his arm into my body. The discomfort I felt throughout was still there, but I felt a renewed mental strength and a refocusing of my purpose.
__ His arm fell away and he quickly drifted off to sleep.(3)
__ I went to the church determined to try something I had been pondering for days. After raiding its supply closet, I set up a brazier and burned a large quantity of sweet-smelling incense within it. Using hay from a neglected nativity scene, I soon produced a dancing flame and concentrated my mind in its midst in an attempt to produce an image. My malaise prevented me from completely succeeding, but I did manage to produce a vision of the Arkham Theatre. Quickly, I grabbed the manger from the nativity scene and thrust it into the fire. (I had taken the liberty of crudely scrawling "Arkham Theatre" on its front with a grease pencil and labeling the shepherds as "actors" before thrusting them inside the model).
__ The back of the mock-up had just started to smolder when I lost my focus. I desperately tried to regain it, but there was no use. I made further attempts but could not even begin the necessary thought processes. Resigned, I lay down. I felt a tinge of regret as I observed the minor wreckage that radiated from my location. I just hope Father Michael was capable of following his own advice.
__ Eventually, having accomplished very little, I recognized the need to leave.(4) I paid my respects to Father Michael, who was stirring restlessly in his bed. Just before I left the rectory, I heard several gunshots from outside. I caught the sounds of yelling and screams of rage. I ran to the door to find small pillars of smoke over many of the nearby houses.
__ "Heaven help us," I exclaimed to myself. "They're rioting in the streets!"

__ I hurried to check on Father Michael but was aghast at what I saw. The priest, in his broken and battered condition, was somehow standing on his bed. The bandages that I had carefully layered around his wounds were now scattered about the bedchamer, accenting the room with strewn wrappings of white and the occasional russet splash of dried blood. He was bathed in the light from his stained-glass window and was staring at it with a rapturous look on his face.
__ He soon noticed that I was gaping at him and fixated me with his wide-eyed stare.
__ "Do you see? Do you see the light from His suns? It is illuminating His path, and soon He will arrive!"
__ I could see nothing through the barely translucent stained glass.
__ Oddly enough, the sunlight seemed to be filtering only through the yellow-colored portions of the window, filling the room with a sickly illumination. Father Michael reached for me, clearly wanting me to join him in his adoration...

__ I told myself I was fleeing before he could harm me, or cause me to harm him in self-defense, but my legs were being driven by blood being pumped from a breaking heart. The spectre of despair was on the horizon, and I would not give it countenance by acknowledging it. Therefore, I continued to sprint towards the church, channelling my impotent rage through my feet and into the tainted earth.

__ I had made it back to the chapel when I noticed that the rioters had been scattered. With a sense of dread, I saw that one was headed directly towards me. He was covered in blood and carried a pistol in one hand and a long knife in the other. Ducking inside the church I was about to close and lock the door before I recognized the approaching psychopath.
__ "Mr. Diamond!"
__ He slumped against the door, and it was a moment before I realized that I was still holding it against him. I helped him inside and he collapsed on the rear-most wooden pew, carelessly dropping his weaponry on the carpet.
__ He winced as his body shifted, looking for padding that wasn't there.
__ "Geez, don't you Catholics believe in comfort?"
__ "I'm not a Catholic, Mr. Diamond, but I did feel the need for some spiritual guidance in a time of desperation. I'm sure you've heard that there were no atheists in the trenches, correct?"
__ "Yeah, not until they were dying in the muck with their entrails strewn around them," he muttered.
__ I was struck by the inanity of our conversation in the face of his grievous injuries, and feeling chagrined, I dropped to his side.
__ "Where are you hurt? What can I do to help?"
__ "Relax, Doc, most of the blood isn't mine, but I could really use a cigarette."
__ His hand was noticibly trembling as he reached out in anticipation.
__ "Err, I'm sorry," I said, frantically patting my various jacket pockets, "I don't have any cigarettes, but I might have a pipe somewhere."
__ He gently waved my suggestion away.
__ "Those rioters took a lot of convincing to split up and go home," he sighed.
__ "You single-handedly dispersed a group of rioters? Good heavens, were you previously a Pinkerton man?"
__ "Hah. No, Doc, I just had them vastly out-gunned, and there was just something totally simple-minded about them that kept them from coordinating against me.
__ "However, Doc, I did have to fight a lot of people out there. I had no choice - they would have ripped me to shreds. I even knew some of them, but they came at me like I was a child murderer! I shot and stabbed until they broke and ran, and even though I tried to go after their legs and knees, I know some of them are still lying on the street and aren't going to get up."
__ "You are absolved, my good man. It is the Tattered King who is to blame, not you. I can see more clearly now - his presence has now completely permeated the town. Once he weakens someone enough, either physically or mentally, he is able to lay claim to that person, and make him or her a conduit of his will. We have just lost Father Michael in the same manner."
__ He was only half-listening, though. I could tell he fighting the urge to tell me his news.
__ "I did it, Doc - I sealed the gate."
__ He proceeded to describe his entire ordeal to me.
__ When he finished, he commented, "That must have reduced his ability to corrupt the town, right?"
__ "Mr. Diamond, you have performed a task that would be considered legendary if anyone were to believe it, and you are correct in thinking that we have scored a great success. Unfortunately, Hastur has several openings into our world, and all must be shut before his diseased influence is banished."
__ Joe looked crestfallen.
__ "Keep your chin up Mr. Diamond. We are making progress, and I foresee a method of defeating our adversary.
__ "I shall seal the next gate, which appeared at the graveyard, as I had predicted. After you have sufficiently recovered, I would ask you to return to the Unvisited Isle to attempt to seal that gate again. By pure luck it seems you stumbled onto a second gate in the Dreamlands which connected to the Witch House. Thankfully, this second attempt should be much easier for you, since you've already dispatched the guardians."
__ Joe stirred, making a point to sit up and address me properly.
__ "Well, Doc, I'm not nearly ready to cop-out on you yet. I have to admit, you've made a convert out of me - I just don't know what I've converted to."
__ "It's good to see you in fine spirits after your ordeal. Unfortunately, we must make haste, for our enemy, unlike us, does not need to rest."
__ "Here, Mr. Diamond, please take my jacket. Your's is practically ripped to pieces and covered in blood and dirt. We cannot have you attracting that much attention to yourself. Your fedora looks a little trampled, but it still appears serviceable."
__ "What are you going to wear, Doc? This ain't the Azores, you know."
__ "I shall borrow something from Father Michael. You are somewhat larger than me, and I am a little taller than the priest, so hopefully this will be the best compromise. Unless you wish to loot one of the rioters?"
__ Seeing the pained expression on the detective's face, I immediately regretted my lack of sensitivity. My matter-of-fact statement may have been interpreted as an indictment.
__ Joe turned to address me as he removed his topcoat and shirt.
__ "I've talked to lots of veterans from the war, Doc, and a lot of them had very similar stories. The ones that were smart enough or lucky enough survived their initial bout of fake bravado. Eventually, they realized that they were terrified, and that it was all right to be terrified. They then realized that the enemy was just as scared as they were. It gave them confidence and made them better soldiers. At the same time, though, it gave them a feeling of empathy and even kinship with their enemy, and made it that much harder to kill them, and made them feel that much worse when they did.
__ "It seems like you've been lucky so far, Doc, but keep this in mind: Everything I've faced hasn't shown a lick of fear or any emotion except anger. Your advice to not reason with them and to just avoid them or fill them full of lead is pretty sound.
__ "Now those rioters out there - even though they were mindless goons and got what they deserved - well, I still find myself feeling bad about it after it's all said and done.(5)
__ "Their lack of emotion seems to put us at a great disadvantage, doesn't it? Perhaps we should try to be more like them?"
__ I felt it was my duty to alleviate the emotions I was responsible for bringing forward.
__ "Mr. Diamond, we are only human. Do not feel guilty for possessing the emotions of one. Any farmer is going to feel bad when putting down a rabid dog, but still knows that it has to be done. Keep in mind that our compassion is a strength not a weakness, and therefor it makes us superior to our foes."
__ Joe nodded his acceptance of my statement, though I'm not sure that he fully believed me. He quickly changed moods anyway, and proceeded to dump the contents of his knapsack onto the church floor. Out tumbled a knife, a painting, and a dog-eared play-book. He handed me the knife, which was terribly sharp-looking.
__ "I wish you were packing some heat, Doc, but in the meantime, you'll need something like this in case things get complicated."
__ Glancing again at his blood-soaked overcoat as I accepted the dagger, I could only remark, "You are indeed wise, Mr. Diamond."
__ We exchanged further information, and Joe made it a point to give me both the painting and the understudy's script.
__ Noticing my study of the odd painting, Joe chimed in:
__ "I'm guessing that the artist was pretty whacked when he made that," Joe helpfully narrated. "There were a bunch of dead soldiers on the ground around it."(6)
__ The script proved to be the most interesting, however. I discovered what appeared to be an incantation in the back of the manuscript, and out of curiosity, decided to attempt it.
__ Focusing, I called out the words, willing the spell to take effect. Gradually, tendrils of yellow mist began to coalecse out of the surrounding air, rotating about my person in a counter-clockwise motion. More yellow fog condensed on the ground at my feet and began rolling away from me in every direction. I found that with a little concentration I could direct a tendril to extend and embrace a nearby pew. Once contacted, the bench began to blacken and smoke, as if had been treated with a strong acid. Quickly, I ended the incantation.
__ "Joe, come at once and look at this!"
__ I turned my head to see where he had gotten to.
__ My detective had somehow managed to stack a compact pew, braced by a long candelabra, against the wall of the church, and was teetering at the top of this contraption, gazing in wonder at one of the stained glass windows. Again, the light streaming in was yellowed in color and gave his countenance a sickly look.
__ "Joe," I sharply hissed his name. "What in the name of God's green earth are you doing?"
__ He turned to look at me, realization abruptly coming to his face. That was his undoing, however, and the break in his concentration caused him to topple backwards and crash down in a great calamity.
__ He was a little bruised and battered, but he seemed to have regained his senses, at least.
__ "I don't know what exactly came over me," he explained, "but I felt compelled to go look out that fancy window."
__ "The King is attempting to control you," I told him. "Do not berate yourself for your behavior, for it was not of your own volition. We must leave this place at once and renew our efforts."
__ I helped him to his feet and shook his hand, "Let us plan to meet on the north side of town once our tasks are complete."
__ His grip was warm and strong, and he nodded an affirmation after I had finished speaking.
"Good luck, Doc."
"Good luck, Joe."


********************


__ I walked north, warily eying everyone that crossed my path. The Great Old One had many foot-soldiers in this town by now, and they would probably stop at nothing to eliminate a threat to their new Lord.
__ I passed the Twilight Lodge on my right, and decided to have a look inside. The Twilight Lodge was an occult society which had a reputation that rivaled even The Golden Dawn. The cynical among us might accuse me of attempting aid from a less reputable source, since I received no succor from a Christian church.
__ The cynics among us are usually correct.
__ I was greeted as I entered by a man who seemed to wield some authority. His initial silence gave me a few minutes to look around and experience the power of this residence. Standing in the gaudily decorated parlor, I felt that I was in the center of a large battery - potenial energy pressed against me from every direction. This would be the place that could remove a curse. I could feel it. My host waited patiently for me finish my sight-seeing before locking me down with eye-contact.
__ It was only that momentary look that convinced me to reconsider putting myself into those hands. There was no hint of compasion or affection in his eyes. These people apparently acquired power for power's sake, and not for the betterment of their fellow man.
__ I now remembered this place from brief flashes in my visions, returning like once-forgotten dreams. I had beheld these people capitalizing on many possible catastrophes, using their power to enslave the remnants of mankind. This theme was a constant in many past, fragmented divinations.
__ I was eventually addressed.
__ "You are Doctor Harvey Walters of Miskatonic University. Long have we waited for you to visit us. Please follow me."
__ "Your pardon sir, but I do not believe you have properly introduced yourself. I feel that I would be neglecting the proper protocol of a gentleman to follow a stranger into an unidentified back room."
__ My host turned and smiled at me.
__ "I have always found that being well-spoken is a mark of intellegence, and is usually the providence of only the greater races of men.
__ "Very well. I am Carl Sanford, and I am the defacto leader of The Silver Twilight organization. I am chagrined at my lack of manners, but unfortunately, time is very short for all of us, and if we are going to admit you into our inner circle, we must begin right away.
__ "Through those doors are a series of tests, designed to task your mental strength. You must pass these tests and then be judged by us to be free from the corruption of conventional morality before you may deemed worthy of our order. Once you have passed these tests, as I am confident that you will, Mr. Robert Wilson will begin the initiation ceremony.
__ "I am pleased to tell you that your current state is merely transitory. After the initiation you will be greater than you are now. Know that this new state will also be transitory. Through us, you will be able to reach whatever potential you desire."
__ "My good sir," I interrupted. "I must confess that I am not well at the moment, and my mind is currently exhausted from earlier activities."
__ "Tut, tut," Carl Sanford disparged, "A sound mind is essential for membership, I'm afraid."
__ "My apologies, sir. I believe I will have to take you up on your generous offer at another time."
__ He chuckled as I fled the antechamber. Better for him to think me a coward than for him to believe that I had some inkling of what went on in this lodge.
__ From there I quickly went to the graveyard, where I knew there to be a gate leading to an ancient, alien city. Whether or not I passed some spiritual test while at the Silver Twilight meeting place, I shall never know, but while walking among the tombstones, I felt my curse draining away, being replaced by an overall feeling of good cheer. Though it was admittedly incongrous to act in such a manner while within such a morbid place, I was now so light-hearted, that I found myself almost skipping towards my destination.

__ Thankfully, my time spent between worlds was uneventful. I passed through my gateway and found myself on the outskirts of an alien city of seemingly epic proportions. Either the dwellers were absent or chose to remain hidden, for I saw no living being the entire time I travelled within. Neither did I encounter any noise or signs of activity one would expect from a large metropolis. In fact, the complete absence of such was quite unnerving. I found that by focusing on myself and my earthly personal possessions, I was able to block the foreigness of this place from my thoughts, and I could continue the task of finding the exit gate.
__ I lost track of how long I wandered through that preternaturally silent landscape, but eventually, I found the gateway out. I stepped through the portal and closed the gate behind me, sealing it by carving an elder sign onto a rock buried in the earth beneath my feet.
__ Wiping my hands, I pondered my next course of action. I set about removing my magical paraphenalia from the travel-stained bag. Now would be a good time to divine what the future might hold and perhaps even alter it. Even with my regained faculties, I could not complete the (admittedly, very difficult) spell. Since both failure and success took an equal toll on my mental stamina, I was compelled to cease the attempt.
__ I did not welcome the idea of continuing to match efforts, against such an implacable foe while hampered by ignorance. When prophecy fails, however, it is not a bad idea to rely on one's intuition. I sensed that the next area of activity would be in the north. I felt that is was best to avoid travelling a direct northern route - I could hear the distant roaring of a crowd from the Eastown area, and I feared running into another group of rioters. I decided to cut across to the Merchant District before turning northwards.


********************


__ I had thought about going to the hospital to get properly stitched up by a doctor, but a guy didn't have to own a fancy degree to realize that things were quickly building to a head. I figured I'd "borrow" another rowboat and return to the Unvisited Isle.
__ On my way, I finally ran across one of those weird things Harvey told me to avoid. I probably wouldn't have even noticed it, except that I'd been on my guard for the unusual. Perhaps it was the complete silence in the area that focused my attention (this wooded lane is normally populated by birds, squirrels, cats, and dogs, and the sounds of all of them driving each other crazy).
__ It was just a mass of blackness in the upper branches of an old oak tree. The thing was flowing around the branches like some kind of a shapeless serpent. Doc's warnings were immediately brought to the center of my attention when an oily, black tendril flew from the tree, whip-like, and struck a nearby squirrel, perched nearly thirty feet away. The poor rodent only had time to splay its legs out in a moment of paniced tension before it was engulfed and yanked into the center of the tree. That earned it a very wide berth from me.
__ "Did you know that the fedora was originally a ladies' hat?"
__ That caused me to nearly jump out of my goddamned skin!
__ I turned to see a man standing right behind me.
__ I didn't even have the chance to come to grips with the fact that I had been caught flat-footed before noticing that the joker was wearing a smiling theater mask over his face.
__ Thoroughly jarred, I shoved him away, "Are you completely bent or something?"
__ "Sarah Bernhardt wore one."
__ I didn't have time for this. I drew my automatic.
__ "If we're going to have it out, let's do it now."
__ "Oh, there is no need for that."
__ His eyes flickered to the trees behind us.
__ "Things will take care of themselves in time. I am more interested in the educated among you. I just wanted to see you in person, before it was too late."
__ "Do you mean Harvey? Wait, how do you know about us?"
__ He had turned and began walking away, but stopped long enough to retort, "I have seen the yellow sign, of course."
__ "Come back here, you twist!"
__ I had my gun aimed at his back, but I could not compel myself to shoot an unarmed man from behind.
__ Damn, I didn't have time to chase every weirdo around town. I had another gate to seal!
__ Regretfully, I let him continue on his way.

__ The guards on the isle had never been replaced, so my route to the opening was undisturbed. The gate looked much less threatening in the daylight. Maybe I was getting used to this job, because I didn't feel uneasy at all about going through that thing again. However, I did stop and fill my pockets up with some heavy rocks (figured I shoud add some extra heft to myself) before I stepped through. Let's see what was awaiting me this time.


********************


__ Due to its proximity to the river docks, the Merchant District had always had a reputation for attracting an unsavory element. Yet I noticed more incidents of public drunkeness and lewd behavior than I believe I had ever seen in any of my world travels. To top it off, there was a rash of graffiti covering almost all the buildings within view. Of course it was that accursed yellow symbol, that foul sigil of the King of Corruption.
__ To get a better look at one of the vandal's more notable pieces of art, I was forced to brush past quite a few odd, masked individuals, including a blank-faced harlot that was so expressionless, she might as well have been wearing one of the others' masks.
__ That the foul despot was determined to extinguish our moral lights one by one had been obvious to me, but the speed in which he was accomplishing the task was giving me pause. Feeling the prescence of someone staring at me, I ceased my examination and turned to view the interloper.
__ "Hello, Harvey."
__ It was Dr Allen Halsey, the Dean of Miskatonic University!
__ Because he seemed to be holding something heavy, I refrained from approaching him and offering the usual handshake. He didn't seem to notice my breach in formality since he began speaking right away.
__ "I took your oft-given advice, good professor, and opened my mind and attended a remarkable theatre performance. In fact, I was so impressed with it that I believe I will add it to our curriculum."
__ He looked odd, as blank-faced as the prostitute, but there was something else about his bearing...
__ The weight of his possession was slowly pulling his limbs downward, and I soon realized that both of his arms were dislocated at the shoulder joint! Amazingly enough, he appeared to be oblivious to what must be an incapacitating pain.
__ Wait a moment.
__ That object was a rock.
__ A large rock, darkly soil-stained on most of its exterior, tiny rootlets still dangling off of one ot the sides.
__ His hands were filthy - broken, bleeding nails showing through where they were not covered in dirt...
__ Something within my mind, something that had long been stretched taut, finally snapped and emotion overcame reason.
__ I lept at him, shaking him furiously, "What did you do? What did you do?! Whatdidyoudo!!!"
__ His arms swung loosely, pendulem-like, as I shook him. Because of the odd motions of the limbs, I could now see what I had already expected to view: the stone in his hand was the very one my elder sign was carved into, only now it had been painted over with that horrible yellow sign. The gateway was now unsealed, and all of my efforts had been in vain.
__ He continued on, oblivious.
__ "Harvey, I owe you an apology for how I viewed your independent studies. There are indeed many wondorous things in this world that man has yet to understand. 'The King in Yellow' is just one of them."
__ The Dean still spoke in the calm, soothing manner of a respected authority figure, but his voice was strangely unmodulated.
__ "The performance was really quite remarkable. If you like, you can have my tickets for tonight's showing, or just wait a few days, and go and attend the giant charity performance at Independence Square."
__ "Put in back, for God's sake, put it back in the ground," I begged him.
__ He looked at me with a puzzeled expression.
__ I was desperate to gain his understanding of what he had done. I fell to my knees and clasped at his.
__ "It's not too late, Allen. The stone, my colleage, the stone. Please, cleanse it and place it back from whence it came. If you respect my opinion as you say you do, favor me with just this one minor task."
__ My impassioned imploring finally touched a recess deep within his brain, for he looked down at his mangled hands, which still held a death grip on my violated seal.
__ "This? No, I'm sorry, Professor Walters, this has already been promised to someone else."
__ "NO!"
__ I sprang to my feet and began pummelling him with all of my might. Despite the force of my blows and the fact that the Dean refused to defend himself, he would not release his hold on that wretched rock!
__ I had likely been attracting attention to us throughout my whole performance, because it was only moments before several firm hands grabbed me and pulled me away from the battered and bloodied Dean.
__ Oh, how I raved at them. Had I better control of my faculties, I would have known that I was only hurting my cause, but my madness was fueled by a self-righteous fury that could not be contained.
__ My struggles must have grown tiresome to his rescuers, because eventually I was held down and wet cloths were draped and held firmly over my face, inhibiting my breathing. I recognized the masked faces of several of the odd dock people standing above me, including the waxen-faced lady. I shut my eyes against their unemotional stares, and unconciousness soon followed, casting me into a world of surreal dreaming.

__ The Tattered King had arrived in Arkham, and was stalking the streets in search of his throne. He stood motionless when he came to a new district, searching in some unknown fashion, somehow peering through an eyeless yellow mask that covered his visage. Through some act of magnetism, any unfortunate souls that happened to be nearby were swayed into approaching the yellow king. Due to that persistent curiousity that is both a blessing and a bane to humanity, one of the poor fools would eventually be compelled to lift the mask and view what was underneath. There would be a gasp of horror before all of my noctural brethern were struck dead on the spot, eyes wide open and mouth molded into a rictus of pain. Terrified that I might accidentally view the monster's countenance, I covered my face, sobbing, each time the scenario repeated itself. Eventually I could take no more and screamed at the doombringer, "There! There in Merchant District! That is what you seek!"
__ I do not know if the beast heard me, but he soon came to his seat of power and assumed his foreordained place on that throne of madness. While pearched on it, he searched within the minds of every Arkham resident, laying claim on those individuals that had been properly prepared. I felt his gaze moving towards me through the void and forced myself to waken.

__ It was completely dark when I awoke, but the heavy smell of chloroform present in my clothes reassured me that I was not still dreaming. I felt around with my right hand, before realizing that my left hand was still clutching my bag. I cast about within the bag until I located my matches. Shaking with trepidation, I struck one, anticipating that I would find myself in some nightmarish dungeon.
__ I was in a cell, but it was too clean to be a prison cell. After a few seconds I realized my new home: I was a resident of Arkham Asylum. It is hard to describe the conflicting feelings of relief and fear that coursed through me upon finding myself both safe and confined, but I forced myself to use both as motivation.
__ I groped around until I located a partially melted tallow candle (along with a foul-smelling bedpan) on a nearby stand. I lit the candle using another match, and I proceded to unceremoniously dump the contents of my knapsack onto the floor of my room. I kindled a small fire and prepared my mind to search the flames for what was awaiting us in the near future. I moaned at what I eventually beheld - the cursed Dean was telling the truth. In just two days, an enormous charity presentation of "The King in Yellow" would take place at Independence Square. The performance would lead to the complete madness and subsequent destruction of what was left of the town.
__ There was a sound of maniacal laughter nearby. Entranced as I was, I could not be sure if the sounds were coming from outside my door or from some form of clairaudience due to my arcane insight. Feeling pressed for time, my trembling hands pulled the script from my pile of belongings.
__ Furiously, I began conjuring. I ripped a page from the understudy's script and began engraving the most potent curses I could remember onto the page. Then, chanting, l lowered the page into the flame where it quickly caught fire and was incinerated. There was a tell-tale display of sparks, and a shadowy shape drifted out of the fire, slipped through the cracks of my barred window, and was gone. Satisfied, I lay back on my matress, staring at my surrounding walls.
__ Due to the inexorable march of time, the plaster had turned to the color of old parchment and minute cracks had appeared throughout. I began following the tracings of these cracks around and around the room, for in my mentally unsound state, they appeared to spell out secret messages for me. Eventually, I realized that that path would continue to lead to madness. I forced myself to sleep, but I was still tormented by bad dreams.

__ I awoke many hours later to the sound of my cell door opening. I put a hand to my bag, making sure it was still there, before turning to address my visitor. An unsmiling orderly stood in the doorway, left hand holding the door open, while his right held a cudgel.
__ "There's someone here to see you."
__ "Who?"
__ Irritation inflected his previously unemotional voice, "I don't know who he is, perhaps you could tell us? Or I could tell the impatient gentleman that you don't want any visitors and send him away."
__ Impatient gentleman - perhaps it was Joe Diamond.
__ "No, sir, I will see him."
__ The unpleasant orderly held the door open for me and motioned me through with his heavy club. I clutched my knapsack to my chest and revolved my way past the guard, careful to keep myself facing him at all times. The return look he gave me was filled with such contempt that it bordered on out-and-out hatred.
__ At least he didn't follow me, and I was left to find my way to the lobby, unguided but less apprehensive.
__ There was a nurse at a receptionist's desk as well as a tall, well-proportioned man, who must be the resident physician. He was pointedly addressing a very tired-looking Joe Diamond.
__ "You might consider him a harmless old man, but he was brought here last night due to his violent temperment and, according to eyewitnesses, he had nearly beaten a man to death. As you can well imagine, even with my ward overflowing as it is, I am hesitant to release such an individual back into the population without consulting the authorities."
__ "Go find me a cop, then," Joe retorted. "Any cop. I'm guessing they all caught wise and split town a long time ago, 'cause I've seen nothing but bodies and burnt out buildings all the way up from the docks."
__ "Your point is indeed valid, but I am entrusted-"
__ As one, all eyes turned to my direction as they noticed a new presence.
__ "Harvey!"
__ "You! What are you doing out of your cell unsupervised?"
__ "I... I was told someone was here who wanted to see me," I haltingly explained.
__ "Damn right I wanted to see you! What happened to you, Harvey?"
__ The physician was about to interject when Joe interrupted him, "Look, Doc, just give me five minutes alone with him, okay? I promise I won't spring him without your say-so. If it makes you feel better, you and your nurse can stay - I just need some privacy."
__ My captor apparently acquiesced and motioned his nurse to join him at the far wall.
__ It took Mr. Diamond very little time to start the interrogation.
__ "Is what he said true, Doc? Did you almost kill someone?"
__ "There were mitigating circumstances, Joe. Besides, he had it coming."
__ Joe guffawed before remembering that we were under observation.
__ "I did lose control of myself, Joe, and apparently I was dragged here against my will, kicking and screaming all the while.
__ "I believe that we are finished here, Mr. Diamond. All of my efforts have come to naught, and my only request to you is that you leave town immediately. Go as far as you can from this place and never look back. This town will be nothing more than an anomaly in future history books in three days, perhaps longer if I can hold it back."
__ Something looked different to me.
__ "Mr. Diamond, what happened to your hat? I have scarcely seen you without it."
__ "Nevermind about the hat. It's not important.
__ "Look, Doc, you need to pull yourself together. You're the best chance this town has of surviving this. Just tell me what I need to do. I've sealed a second gate, and I can do more. What to we need to do to finish this?"
__ "To succeed, all of Hastur's doorways into our plane must be closed. My advice, if I believed success was still a possibility, would be to enter each gate and close it as quickly as possible. Do not waste any time and effort in sealing them, as it no longer seems to matter. However, my real advice is to listen to what I told you two minutes ago and leave town now. You have become very dear to me, and I do not wish your death to be on my conscience."
__ "Okay, Doc, let's go. I need to stop at the hospital first, to get patched up, then we're going to end this thing."
__ I silently shook my head.
__ Joe nodded in the staff's direction, "I wouldn't worry too much about them. You think they're going to try and chase down a couple of potentially armed and dangerous ner' do-wells when they've already got half the town inside? You go first and I'll cover you. If my looks don't give them second thoughts, I'll just flash my piece at them."
__ "I'm sorry, Joe, but you just don't understand. In order to prevent what is going to happen, I need to concentrate in an area of peace and solitude. Attempting to magically prevent the performance while 'on the run' will surely lead to failure.
__ "In addition, I am ashamed to admit, I feel safer here." I sheepishly stared at the floor, unable to meet his gaze. Then, involuntarily, my whole body began to shake and tremble, as my conscious self recognized what my unconscious mind had known all along - I was close to the breaking point
__ Mr. Diamond looked at me with alarm, then sympathy, "Don't worry, Doc, I'll close the gates - you just stay here and keep delaying that play as long as you can. Remember, you are the only chance that what's left of this pitiful town has."
__ "One more thing, Doc. There's one of those tentacled, black monstrosities across the street from here. I could tell that the damn thing wanted to eat me, but I gave it plenty of respect. If you decide to leave here and take a stroll, keep your eyes open, 'cause I've seen that thing snatch up a squirrel at over ten yards."
__ Joe got up and the staff returned to their former positions. Standing in front of the nurse's station, he began placing money on the desk.
__ "Doctor, I want you to give this man everything he needs. Please keep in mind, I have no wish to insult your ethical standards, but with things as crowded and confused as they are, I realize that sometimes people can fall through the cracks."
__ Money continued to be placed on the table as he spoke. I noticed that the large wad of bills I originally gave the detective as a retainer from what seemed like an eternity ago also hit the desktop, giving a small bounce before resting pointedly in front of the doctor.
__ "Just be sure he gets a private room, with as little disturbance as possible," Joe continued.
__ "Now I consider myself a respectable citizen, and I don't think I'm ready for the looney-bin myself, but I have been known to go a little soft in the head at times. As you've probably noticed, I tend to get other people's blood all over me, but I assure you, it's never occured without a good reason."
__ I felt a distant feeling of alarm as Joe finished emptying his pockets and placed his .45 automatic on the pile of cash.
__ "I just want to be sure that when I come back, my friend is in the best possible state of health. Capice?"
__ I could tell that the doctor and nurse were thoroughly cowed. They both nodded their heads quietly, in unison.
__ Mr. Diamond then reholstered his gun and began to leave.
__ "Joe!" I cried out, "Wait!"
__ He turned to look at me.
__ "You are just as important to this endeavour as I am. If you cannot close the gates, we fail. If you insist on doing this, I implore you, please be cautious. Even be uncharacteristically timid if you must. Neither this town, nor I, will survive if anything unpleasant happens to you.
__ I could feel the perplexed stares of the faculty upon us as I finished, but Mr. Diamond was unphased.
__ "Don't worry, Harvey. I've been making my living at being sneaky for years. I'm not going to let any freak of nature bump me off."
__ Then, with a slight bow to all of us, he was gone.
__ And that was the last time I ever saw my friend.(7)

EPILOGUE


Orderly #1 So, we're just supposed to let him start fires
   whenever he wants?
Orderly #2 He's got Doctor Mintz in his corner. Besides, he
   is a model inmate if you don't interrupt his morning routine.
Orderly #1 This is part of a daily routine?
Orderly #2 Yeah, I used to watch all of it at first, but I
   noticed that there wasn't a whole lot of variety in it, so
   now I just make sure his fires don't get out of control. He
   wakes up, says his morning prayers, and rips a page out of
   some beat-up book. He'll scribble on the page for a while,
   then burn it up, chanting all the while. That chanting will
   make your hair stand on end, the first few times you hear it.
   Sometimes when he's done, he'll lay on his bunk and cry, but
   most of the time he sits around quietly meditating.
Orderly #1 Okay, I'll do you a favor. Tomorrow morning, I'll
   go into his room and straighten him out with a mop handle.
   No more fires. No more worries.
Orderly #2 {chuckling} It's been tried before by your
   predecessor. He's stronger than he looks. Not only that,
   but he must have some nasty chemicals in that bag. Two of
   our previous orderlies got badly burned when they assaulted
   him one morning. They've never been back. It was good
   riddance, anyway. They were a couple of goons and a little
   defective, mind-wise themselves, if you ask me. Not only
   that, but Doctor Mintz got mighty sore at all of us, and the
   rest of us had to bust our asses for weeks, just to avoid him.
Orderly #1 Well, that book will run out of pages eventually.
   What do you think he'll do then?
Orderly #2 {scratches head} I don't rightly know. I've never
   really thought about it before. I guess we'll find out when
   it finally happens.




THE END



Footnotes:
(1) Admittedly, "Summon the Beast within" increases your Combat rating, not your Fight skill, and wouldn't have made a difference anyway. However, it was a good excuse to activate the spell from a narrative perspective.
(2) Okay, trading a curse for an unique item seems foolish in retrospect. I could identify the moment that I could not successfully cast "Arcane Insight" as the moment that I lost the game. But I challenge any of you, especially former role-players, to pass up the chance to acquire a magic sword. (Hell, can't your cleric cast "Remove Curse on you, anyway?)
(3) That made 4 failed rolls in a row for poor Harvey. His bad luck at rolling would become a trend, regardless of whether he was cursed or not.
(4) I confess that I "cheated" at this point in the game. Due to inexperience, I had thought that the "blessing" symbol at the church location implied that there is was greater likelihood of an encounter that could lead to a blessing. After no results during 3 turns spent at the church, I began to worry, and riffled through the KiY encounter deck, trying to find an encounter that would lead to a blessing. It was as I feared - there were none to be had. I would have to leave and hope that the curse would wear off with time.
(5) Dealing with rioters is particularly traumatizing. Successfully defeating them means that you are still going to lose one stamina and one sanity. Not only that, but you don't get to drag their bodies along as trophies, either.
(6) Dead soldiers = 1920's slang for empty beer bottles (for those of you who might need help with the reference). Also, it means that the artist surely must have been one of those wicked, wicked Canadians who had no respect for our beloved Constitution and continued to bring us delicious booze during the Prohibition Era.
(7) Joe Diamond, besides having a good Sneak ability, used up the last of his clue tokens in an effort to suceed in evading the formless spawn in the street outside of the asylum. Alas, luck was again against our heroes. He took damage from the monster, which was enough to kill the badly wounded detective. It was at this point that I decided to forfeit and call it a game. The terror level was at 8 and the doom track was at 12. Not to mention, Act III of the play was only 2 turns away (possibly more if Harvey could keep pushing it back). The only chance I would have had would have been a victory at the final battle, and there were blights aplenty to negatively affect this (along with everything else). With Joe Diamond restarting with half of his gear gone, I sensed that it would be a waste of my time. Thematically, it was more appropriate to end it at this point anyway.

Appendix:

Mythos cards that made life difficult:
Aldeberan Ascendent
Two Sunsets?
Unusual Moonrise
Mirages of Lakes
New Miskatonic U. Curriculum
Intermission
Uptown Hosts Famous Publisher Bizarre Couriers
High Tides
Off Broadway?
Rash of Graffiti
The Tattered King
The Next Act Begins! (x3)

Monsters that got in the way:
Formless Spawn (x2)
Maniac
Cultists (x2)
Gug
Fire Vampire
Tcho-Tcho
Dark Young (x2)
Rioters (x3)

Blights that caused stress:
Abigail Foreman
Velma
Doyle Jeffries
Father Michael
Joey "The Rat"
Miriam Beecher
The Dean
Sheriff Engle



P.S. If you found references to "ETI," Masks of the Illuminati, and "The Yellow Wallpaper," congratulations - you are as big a nerd as I am.

There Will Be Games
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