Thursday, July 22, 2021

The House of Edwin, Part Four: June 18. 1926


With midafternoon—and the Solstice festival—drawing ever nearer, the group makes plans for what to do next. The group decides that recovering their Gate box is their first priority, since having it will give them access to their additional equipment and an escape route while preventing the Silver Twilight from having a back door into their inner sanctum. Dr. Black strongly suspects that the Gate box is in the mysterious tower, and the rest of the group agrees with him.

The group goes over their personal stores of weapons and Tommy Hayes, the British policeman, is quite taken aback to learn how heavily armed the London Group is even without the ordinance stowed in the judge’s garage.

After a long discussion, it is decided that the lion’s share of the group will remain on the island, with only the Clarks taking Jonas’ boat to the mainland. Judge Putnam, Johnny, and Brother Theodore do research in the Edwin library, with Christopher Edwin carried along and explaining his indexing system as best as he can. Ron and Vivian make a thorough search of the house for useful supplies. Mikhail, Pushok, Dr. Black, Kane, Tommy Hayes, and Horus first accompany the Clarks to the boat before setting out to explore the top of Sentinel Hill.

Departure and Ascent

Mikhail, Pushok, Dr. Black, Kane, Tommy, and Horus send the Clarks off. Stephen promises to take care of everything and asks if the group would like him to do anything once they reach Portland. Kane asks them to stay safe. Horus asks them to contact the Coast Guard.

Dr. Black gives Jonas an Elder Sign, which Jonas—a faithful Protestant—balks at. Dr. Black gives him an extra dollar and asks Jonas to hang the Sign on his boat. Jonas is very reluctant, at first, but the doctor is so persuasive that he ultimately accepts.

After the boat gets underway, the remaining group hikes up to Sentinel Hill. They find the amphitheater well-prepared for the evening’s activities and accidentally disturb at least one couple who had gone up to the hilltop to pitch a little woo. Finding very little of note in the amphitheater, the group decides to set out for the tower.

A Disturbing Find

Vivian and Ron gather bottles of lamp oil, hurricane lamps, rope, tools, and similar supplies that they think might be of use in surviving their next night on the island. They also wind up thoroughly searching the house, including the disused servants’ quarters on the third floor. Ron is concerned when he notices that the door to the quarters has rags stuffed under the gap in the jam and in the keyhole. His concerns only increase when he opens the door and notes the familiar smell of decay in the air.

He and Viv investigate and find the body of Ms. Bridger lying dead on a painter’s dropcloth in one of the unused bedrooms in the quarters. Ron inspects the badly decayed body and notes that Ms. Bridger was killed instantly and expertly by a single knife thrust to her back. The knife went up between her ribs and into her heart. Ron is no Dr. Black, but he thinks that the body might have been in the servants’ quarters for at least a couple of weeks, meaning that the Ms. Bridger that the London Group met wasn’t the real Ms. Bridger.

Vivian fetches Johnny from downstairs and asks him to study Ms. Bridger with his keen mind and knowledge of the occult. Vivian is particularly concerned that, unlike Christopher Edwin, Ms. Bridger’s body was kept on the premises instead of being hastily buried, and wonders what this means. Johnny remarks that none of Ms. Bridger is missing, suggesting that her remains were not used to fuel certain loathsome spells. In the end, he and Vivian guess that either the murderer was surprised and could not properly dispose of the body, or that the murderer needed to keep the body close at hand for unknown, likely Mythos-related, reasons.

In The Library

Judge Putnam remains in the library with the disembodied brain of Christopher Edwin. Johnny, Ron, and Vivian duck in and out of the library repeatedly, busy with other things, but also do sit down to help with additional research on the island, its people, and what the imminent Solstice festival might hold for them.

They find numerous references of the island’s bizarre, pagan-influenced past. The islanders apparently hold the Solstice and both Equinoxes in quite high regard. On these holidays, they hold festivals and pay obeisance to various spirits of the air and the water. The Mythos connections to these spirits are obvious enough alarm the researchers.

Ron finds a children’s picture book, lavishly illustrated, which serves as a very basic primer for the religious history of Chebeague Island and its many festivals. One large illustration depicts the “processional paths” that the islanders take on holy days. This image makes the researchers realize that the paths follow ley lines that crisscross the island. A bit of further research reveals that the ley lines intersect at the very place that the mysterious tower is built.

Johnny’s research leads him to reading numerous strange and apocryphal stories about “the deep ones,” who live beneath the sea. Vivian’s research allows her to find numerous pieces of information about “the mi-go, or the fungi from Yuggoth,” inhuman interstellar scientists whose technology and interests mirrors much of what the group has seen on the island.

The Tower

Mikhail, Pushok, Horus, Tommy, Dr. Black, and Kane approach the tower. Dr. Black is convinced that he hears a buzzing noise—akin to an angry swarm of bees—coming from the top window of the tower. It fades away before anyone else can hear it.

Desperate for further information, Dr. Black attempts to commune with Khaad Vistu. The priest aspirant laughs mercilessly at the doctor’s poor command of magic. He taunts the doctor, but does tell him that the tower is built upon a confluence of ley lines for some unknown, but likely magical, purpose.

The group explores the tower and finds it to be old, abandoned, and covered in climbing ivy. A quick look inside reveals that much of the tower is hollow on the inside, though there is a trap door in a shadowed roof high above. There are no stairs inside the tower, but there are metal rings on the walls that might provide an enterprising climber hand and footholds to reach the trap door.

As they investigate the base of the tower, the group notices, with rising alarm, that the dark shadows near the ceiling seem to be expanding, flowing down the tower walls like honey. Pushok barks in panic at the approaching darkness, but the group collects him and flees. They stand outside the tower and watch as the darkness not only fills it, but also seems to push out of the windows and doors, straining and stretching as if trying to leave the tower’s confines.

After a few moments, the darkness begins to recede, but now the group is assaulted by an awful buzzing noise. Pushok, Horus, and Tommy are overwhelmed by the sound and, glassy-eyed, retreat down the path back to the Sentinel Hill amphitheater. Kane, Dr. Black, and Mikhail choose to go after them, and find their friends quite confused, but otherwise unharmed.

Thoroughly bewildered and frightened by their experience in the tower, the group opts to return to the Edwin mansion and catch their friends up on what has transpired. On their way back, they note that the islanders’ procession has begun, and that a huge group of costumed revelers are marching down North Road, playing bagpipes, fifes, and drums.

A Very Merry Solstice

The London Group reunites and exchanges information. A plan is hatched to use Ron’s remaining sticks of dynamite to destroy the tower. Vivian suggests adding the lamp oil and other things she has found to add fuel to the fire, in case it is necessary.

Tommy Hayes, thoroughly rattled by what he has experienced on the island, asks for a loaner weapon from the London Group. Dr. Black kindly offers him his backup gun.

Brother Theodore offers to pray to Nodens for guidance, and leaves to seclude himself so that he might do so.

It is at about this time that members of the group hear the approaching music of the revelers. It appears that they are traveling up the side of the hill directly to the Edwin mansion. Realizing that the time for action is almost upon them, the London Group readies themselves as best as they can. Papa Doc Horus uses his borrowed bag of salt to create a “final line of defense” inside of the main hallway on the first floor. The rest load guns, sharpen enchanted blades, slip magical gems into their pockets. and post lookouts on the windows.

A few minutes later, the islanders arrive. They stand in the front yard of the Edwin mansion, playing, singing, and dancing for several minutes. Then, in unison, they cry out, “Happy Solstice, Mr. Edwin!”

The group watch pensively as the islanders woop and cheer before turning to march back down the hill. 

They only get a few steps, however, before all of them seem to be overcome by some outside force and collapse, unconscious, on Mr. Edwin’s front lawn.

As the last of the revelers slump to the ground, the London Group can hear the distinctive sounds of conch shells blowing in the distance…

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