Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The House of Edwin Part 3: June 18, 1926

Early Morning Efforts

As the sun rises, several members of the London Group either try to catch up on sleep or freshen up in preparation for the day ahead.

Dr. Black, Judge Putnam, and Vivian avail themselves of the numerous tomes in Christopher Edwin’s library. Dr. Black learns a spell called The Keenness of Two Alike, which he hopes will allow him to commune with the memories of the dead priest aspirant that seems to have taken up residence inside of his head. Judge Putnam confirms that there was a real Christopher Edwin, that he did communicate with various members of the group, and that he did invite them to Chebeague Island to discuss plans for thwarting the Order of the Silver Twilight. Vivian, meanwhile, learns quite a bit more about the rise and fall of the—apparently—globe-spanning empire of the serpent people, and also finds a description of the Arc of Vlactos.

Meanwhile, Ron hikes into town to get the lay of the land. He sees several becostumed villagers preparing for the day’s Solstice ceremony. They excitedly invite him to the festivities later, which begins with a potluck lunch in the village square at noon. Ron learns that the island’s sole telegraph has broken down. He also visits the north ferry dock and overhears a crusty old sailor in a yellow rain slicker telling the dockmaster that the ferry has broken down and will not be able to come out until tomorrow. The dockmaster says that this bodes ill for getting money from tourists who wanted to visit the Solstice festival. Ron feels as though it bodes ill for other, more personal reasons.

Some Costumed Islanders

Ron also notices that the islanders have hung witches’ balls up on their front doors and mailboxes. Also, it seems that the fishermen of the island have spread their nets out on the shoreline, with their attached witches’ balls gleaming in the sun. Ron, who is not a fisherman, is still wise enough in the way of fishing to know that the nets are not arranged to catch fish. He wonders if they are displayed in this manner for a different purpose.

A short time later, Ron returns to the Edwin household to find Johnny and Papa Doc Horus preparing a simple breakfast for everyone.  Horus also borrows a large quantity of salt “just in case.”

As the group and their allies discuss their findings, Tommy Hayes, insists that they tell someone about the dead body they discovered in the back yard. The London Group try to dissuade him from this, partially because there’s no one to tell, partially because it seems as though all communication with mainland authorities has been cut, and partially because they fear that they will tip their hands to the islanders.

The Clarks, meanwhile, have decided that they are going to try and leave as soon as possible. Their attempts are thwarted when James and Stephen tell Angie that their car won’t start. Angie goes out to investigate, with the rest of the group in tow, and she and Johnny soon discover that someone has put sugar in the gas tanks of all the vehicles—including Ms. Bridger’s sporty motorcycle.

Johnny thinks that he can salvage the judge’s car by draining and cleaning the gas tank, though he will need to replace the fuel if he’s going to be able to drive the car anywhere. While he and Angie work to disconnect the gas tank, Ron points out that they need to make sure that the south ferry is up and running. Otherwise, they’re going nowhere.

The group takes another quick search of the house and its environs. Dr. Black takes this opportunity to cast The Keenness of Two Alike, which allows him to join his intellect with that of Khaad Vistu, the long-dead priest aspirant of the Nameless City.

Meanwhile, Ron wanders around back to give the property a closer look. There is a great deal of standing water where the back garden should be—likely due to some drainage issues. Ron also sees a thin film of brownish-black fluid floating on the surface of the water. This reminds him both of the stain Vivian saw on Miss Bridger’s bathroom door, as well as the creepy fluid prominent in some of Stephen Clark’s older paintings. Believing that there is something in the water, but not wanting to touch the brownish-black fluid, Ron pulls a stick of dynamite from his pocket, ignites it, and throws it in the water.

The resulting explosion terrifies everyone, rattles the Edwin mansion, and cracks a few windows in their frames. One by one, the members of the London Group come around back to investigate the source of the explosion and/or to castigate Ron.

It becomes evident that the explosion has blown a fracture in the bedrock of the large hill/small mountain upon which the Edwin mansion sits. This allows the remnants of the standing water that weren’t catapulted skyward to drain down into the fracture, leaving a patch of saturated mud behind. The group discovers nothing of note left behind. Ron insists that he was helping.

The explosion is loud enough that it reaches the nearby village, and soon a handful of villagers has come up the old, worn out staircase to the Edwin house to investigate the noise. The London Group insists, repeatedly, that what the villagers heard was simply a car backfiring. Dr. Black then attempts to distract the curious villagers by asking them if he could purchase a can of gasoline in town.

The amiable villagers offer to escort Dr. Black into town so that he can get some gasoline. Fearful that he might be ritually sacrificed by the villagers, much of the rest of the group goes with Dr. Black. At the same time, Ron decides to lead a party to the southern ferry dock to see if egress from the island can be affected from there.  Mikhail, meanwhile, puts Pushok on a leash and walks down the old, moss-covered staircase to the northern shore of the island.

Errands in Chebeague

Ron and his group learn that the southern ferry is also broken, and is floating dead in its mainland port until the proper parts can be delivered. Ron’s group is concerned about this, fearing that both ferries being out of order on the same day is no accident. They talk among themselves about other ways to leave Chebeague Island, bandying about such ideas as using the Gate box luggage, hiring a boat, stealing a boat, or building a raft with supplies at the house.

Another Costumed Local

Dr. Black and his party venture into town and acquire a can of gasoline without any fuss. Dr. Black’s group notices that the islanders are setting up the potluck luncheon on the village square. They also notice that several of the islanders are preparing or donning costumes that consist of great quantities of fur, straw, and cowbells. Ornate masks are also a feature of these costumes. These costumes are strange and off-putting enough that Dr. Black’s party grows even more wary.

Mikhail, having heard Ron’s reports of the witches’ balls, and having heard that the handblown glass spheres seem to be a facet of the strange religion of the island, takes his witch ball down to the shore and places it in the water. Mikhail prays to the “spirits of the water,” asking them to protect him and his friends and to defeat his enemies.

He watches, with a mixture of fascination and terror, as the witch’s ball floats out into the Atlantic of its own volition. When it is several dozen yards from shore, a dark shape swims up from the depths, grabs the ball, and vanishes back into the deeps. Mikhail has an unshakeable conviction that his prayer has been heard. For better or for worse.

The Group Reunites/The Luncheon

The London Group reunites, shares information, and decides to visit the potluck luncheon in the town square. The members of the group share their misgivings about what has occurred, what is about to occur, and how they might be able to get the hell off of the island before anything bad happens. There is some discussion of, at the very least, sending the Clarks, Brother Theodore, Tommy Hayes, and Horus to safety by means of the Gate box.

During the luncheon (which the group does not partake in), several members of the group notice the sailor in the yellow rainslicker standing off to one side under a tree, smoking a pipe and watching the proceedings with a baleful gaze. One by one, the group drift over to introduce themselves to the man, who introduces himself as Jonas, a lobsterman, who is the captain of a thirty-foot vessel currently moored at the north ferry dock.

Jonas tells the London Group that he was given a small stipend to travel to Chebeague Island and let them know that the north ferry is out of service until tomorrow. He mentions that he, a God-fearing Protestant, dislikes the island, its people, and their pagan ways, and pans to be well-shut of Chebeague long before the Solstice festival gets underway. When the group presses him on details of the festival, Jonas says that he has never attended, but that he is still strongly against it anyway, as it’s definitely heathen and unrighteous.

Seeing an avenue of escape, the group asks Jonas if he will take them, their companions, and their luggage back to Portland. Jonas agrees, for the frankly ridiculous sum of $1 per person. Realizing that he has them over a barrel, the London Group takes Jonas up on his offer. They tell him that they will be returning to the Edwin manor to pack, but that they will meet him at his boat shortly.

Jonas the Fisherman, Looking Quite Old-Timey

Lost Luggage/The Cylinder

The London Group return to the house and begin to pack, only to discover, to their great alarm, that the Gate box has gone missing. Even more disconcerting is the fact that Dr. Black’s warding spell, which he had placed around the Gate box, remains intact and somehow undisturbed despite the theft.

With their easiest means of escape and resupply taken from them, the London Group hastily changes their plans. They decide to leave their cars behind, pack quickly, and pay Jonas to take themselves and their allies back to Portland. They realize that whatever forces are conspiring to keep them on the island will be at a disadvantage once the reach the mainland and, once they have escaped to Portland, they can formulate a plan and strike back.

As the group hastily packs, Dr. Black notices the strange cylinder that Ron had found the previous night. This cylinder has been placed on an end table in the dining room, next to the pile of strange equipment that Vivian had found hidden in the wall space the previous night. His mind still enhanced by the Keenness of Two Alike, Dr. Black suddenly realizes that the connector on the strange equipment fits into the various ports up and down the sides of the cylinder. Curious as to the nature of the cylinder and the devices, he begins plugging various parts into various other receptacles.

A high pitched, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” emanating from one of the devices makes Dr. Black reconsider and hastily remove the devices from the cylinder.

Eventually, however, curiosity from the rest of the group overrides Dr. Black’s caution. Once again, the devices are hooked up. Once again, there is a high pitched “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” which, blessedly, fades after a few seconds.

Then, from the device, the group hears a flat, metallic voice. “Hello? Is anyone there? Why can’t I see you?”

The voice eventually identifies itself as Christopher Edwin, though Judge Putnam takes some pains to question the voice in order to determine its identity. Once the voice has answered several pointed questions, the judge is more or less reassured that the group is truly speaking to Christopher Edwin, though they don’t quite know how.

Johnny, who has read far too many Mythos tomes in the past year, explains that this device is likely a mi-go brain cylinder. If that is, in fact, the case, it means that someone has removed Christopher Edwin’s brain from his body and placed it inside of the cylinder for safekeeping, storage, and transport to the distant world of Yuggoth.

Unsurprisingly, Christopher Edwin does not take this news very well.

Once the group manages to get Mr. Edwin calmed down, he explains that he was very much looking forward to meeting them all, that he did have plans to stop whatever the Order of Silver Twilight is doing on Easter Island, and that he will happily contribute his knowledge, his skills, his finances, and his library to the London Group’s cause.

Stunned at finally meeting their mysterious host and benefactor, the London Group attempts to gather their wits about them so that they can most easily effect their escape.

Nellie Thompson

She's Baaa-aaaack!

Ron realizes that the situation has become quite dire, and feels that he needs to summon Nathan Torpley/the Many-Faced Stranger to get advice, help, or both. He knows that Vivian took the Ouroboros Ring away from him, but also knows that Vivian is too smart to leave such a potent magical artifact on the nightstand at home. While the others are discussing plans, Ron slips into his goddaughter’s room, roots through her belongings, and finds the Ouroboros Ring hidden in Vivian’s compact.

Ron proudly announces to the group that he has found the ring and plans to use it to summon Nathan Torpley. The group attempts to dissuade him. When their arguments do not change Ron’s mind, Vivian suggests that Ron team up with someone to share the cost of summoning Mr. Torpley, so that he is not rendered as weak as a kitten by expending almost all of his vitality. A bemused Tommy Hayes agrees to help, and is frankly shocked when the spell takes effect and he nearly passes out from the effort.

Moments later, the group hears a rolling, thudding noise from upstairs, accompanied periodically by the sound of a jauntily tinkling bell. The group goes to investigate to find Nellie Thompson riding a tricycle around and around the second-floor balcony. Nellie is, of course, very amused to see everyone.

Ron petitions Nellie for aid, only for her to tell him that, “other people have gone to great effort to keep me from intervening on your behalf directly.” Nelly tells Ron not to worry though—she’s left something special somewhere in the house that might help him, if he can find it.

With that, she drives her tricycle into the closet and disappears. Shortly thereafter, the group hears the tricycle bell ringing again, this time from downstairs.

Following the sound of the bell, the group enters a hitherto unexplored room, which turns out to be the mansion’s music room. Amidst the dusty instruments and stacks of sheet music, Vivian locates the Jade Sphinx, which has been placed on the fireplace mantel. Vivian inspects the sphinx and discovers that the black gemstone—which will allow them to summon the Hound of Nephrem-Ka—is still safely ensconced within its base.

The Return of this Awful Thing

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