Ramon’s Guide to Gothic Terra

Masque

“I came to, a willingness to survive kicked in.  When I swam above the waterline, I wasn’t greeted by Lamordia, by a mist-cloaked land anew.  Surely, this was but a trick of The Dark Powers, once more?” – Ramon DeLeon, wandering bard and planes traveler

Planet Terra.  It has been referenced in many planar logs.  Many worlds tell of a mythic world of great humans who fled the oppressive horrors of their old world of many names.  LaTerre, Uerth, Gothic Earth.  These names and more have been given to this world by many a scholar of Wildspace and The Planes.  Despite its mythic past, much of its fantastical glory days are over, with only dark shadows looming over the present.  The present, according to the widely used calendar of its people, is 2012.  The common people either mistranslate old calendars as prophecy or completely brush off any fear.  The reality of the matter is so much worse…

Author’s Note: Credit where credit is due!  A big thanks to Rucht Lilavivat of the Fraternity of Shadows community for his creation of Gothic Earth Eternal, a pathfinder mod that brings Masque of the Red Death into the Modern Age.  In my case, this is my means of highlighting a variety of chilling tales.  In the world of Gothic Earth, they’re most likely true!  Also, this is not the Earth you are used to, but one more akin to the gothic settings of the World of Darkness roleplaying game.  Life is deadlier, the aesthetics are grimmer and the world in general is far more sinister. Plus, I have an excuse to tie in Alternity Dark*Matter RPG’s Hoffman Institute and the forces of Shadow from D20 Urban Arcana, which are both canon in D&D.  I know Masque of the Red Death doesn’t traditionally have standard Domains, but this concept takes place over 100 years after the main campaign.  Anything can happen, right?

Also, this gives me the chance to showcase some disturbing stories through a supernatural lens!  The fate of the SS. Morro Castle, Jane and the Starving Period of Jamestown, fell curses in the Payton Randolph house, the murder of George Wythe, tavern tales of devil pacts and their supposed results, government conspiracies, southwestern ghost towns, real life camp killers and the infamous murder hotel.  Now, save for a tavern tale or two; the majority of the topics mentioned in this are real or are based on real events.  I don’t mean any offense or disrespect when adapting these events to horror fiction.  If anything, reality is far scarier than any fictional tale we could come up with.  None the less, I realize this one will be rather controversial.

 

 

Asbury Park

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Old attractions, long since gone.

As the rushing tide pushed me around, I found myself slipping in and out of proper consciousness.  But, beyond?  A beach well illuminated with lights…  And not just any lights, but those akin to experiments seen in Lamordia.  Is this a new domain?  Perhaps the future?  The raising land eventually takes over from the sloshing waves, as I finally reach the wondrous land.  A summer’s sun has blessed the sand below me to still be warm.  However, this is where familiarity would end.  The buildings upon a wooden walkway above the shoreline proved strange in design, adorned with more of these experimental light sources.  Given how the climate is too warm to be Lamordia, this is likely another late Cultural Renaissance domain!  The propped up street seems mostly shuttered and closed for the night.  My only greeter is a raspy voiced man, clad in rags and white in hair.  The vagrant shakes an arm, to ask for currency.  Giving the man a confused look, he frowns and covers a blanket over himself as to push me away.  Passing the resting man, the trance inducing sounds of distant strains of music float through the air; a performance nearby!

My own needs for my chilled body were superseded by the distant tones of musicians.  A gated fence barricaded myself from entry, but a well lit outdoor stage supported a group of five people, playing incredibly bizarre songs with equally fascinating instruments.  Even their garb speaks of bards most abnormal!  The tavern next door seemed open, with the bouncer eyeing me up and down, questioning why I “took a dip”.  After explaining myself, he shrugged, declaring that his pay grade was below this and let me enter.  Paraphernalia of musicians, more weird lights and a small gathering of tavern folk lined this dim place of libations and festivity.  Dizzying checker patterned floors against dark walls greeted me, as partakers gawked or cocked their heads in confusion.  Beyond the crowds was a sort of relief room, with locked cabinets.  A few bits of word and song freed the locks, allowing access to far less damp clothing.  While I’m above thievery, I prefer to avoid sickness.  Plus, the attendants of this musical event wouldn’t dare leave valuable items in such a public place!  As to not overstay my welcome, my interests went back to investigating the beach area.  And what luck, a docked boat was awaiting passengers.  The gala looked far more cultured than the prior musical venue.

The sea vessel looks to be a massive transportation and leisure, an imposing steel crafted ship that now exudes an aura of foreboding.  S.S. Morr- Cast-, the grand title inscribed upon the side of the ship, grizzled by scorch marks.  Curious.  A deck ramp beckons me aboard, as if to welcome me to its cruise beyond.  Not a moment after I boarded Morro Castle, the marina space behind me was gone and the dark ship comes to life.  All sorts of fanciful people in garb far better than what I had borrowed.  A hired crewman pointed me to the proper place to change clothing, taking my still damp garments and the current garb with me.  A refreshing formal attire allowed me to blend in and survey this luxurious gathering, all without payment… which was curious.  Without even paddles or external mechanisms, the vessel began to drift away from the vanished port, into the waters beyond.

The cruise was truly marvelous; luxuries of the modern age or the future age or something, at least I believe so.  The gentle breeze and drifting waves accompany a whole band of musicians performing an equally relaxing piece.  Compared to the previous realm, this one already proves superior.  But, I have that feeling deep down of something wrong.  Vanishing docks, the side paneling of the ship.  Something was certainly wrong.  However, my desire for adventure and my tired state was enough to override proper senses.  The worry and dismay from the working staff was certainly a tip, as if they’ve been in a similar situation before.  The more I gazed upon the attendants, the less full of vigor and life they truly were; almost like marionettes dancing to a rehearsed routine.  Besides my sight, my sense of smell caught onto danger.  Smoke, burning metal and wood.  That’s not good.

Exploring the smell, the below deck began to light up.  Fire!  People in work garb rushed pass me, even passing through me.  This was no lively cruise at all, but a ferry ship of the dead!  Making my way through rapidly burning pathways and collapsing debris, I found myself greeted with burning cruise customers, almost zombie-like in their shambling toward me.  Without a blade or even instrument, wiggling around tight corners and pushing down obstacles were my only means of survival.  But, then the self-proclaimed “radio officer” reared his ugly head, as if well aware of the tragedy that occurred here.  He tells a brief tale about how he pretended to play hero, despite being the reason for things getting worse.  Beyond the ship, he caused more tragedy and his damned soul was bound to this boat as a “dominion of the dread”, forever cursed to relive his misdoings beyond the grave.  The ghost of the captain emerges to tackle the corrupt officer down, allowing brief escape.  However, upon the hull, the angry dead block my passage as the flames spread.  Pushing and shoving, the walking dead still gathering and barricade.  And suddenly, a large explosion!  Wood chunks, bits of metal hull, glass shards, all means of knickknacks and things; sprayed across the oceanic ceiling… with me hurled beyond the combusting wreckage of the Ghost of the SS Morro Castle.  From the vapors of the ghost ship, I saw something worse.  It was the visage of a face, a truly wicked one at that.  It morphed and almost congealed like blood into a hardened red form.  The mass speaks, exclaiming that The Red Death welcomes me to Terra, a new world of horrors that will rebuke me in time.  Adrift, aboard a mere plank, I pass out at sea.

 

 

The Colonies of Jamestown and Williamsburg

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The Estate of a Payton Randolph, married to an apparently abusive woman.

This again, sloshing and washing at the shoreline.  This time, a shining statue of a powerful noble looking man greets me early in the dawn’s light.  Speaking of dawn, the somewhat corroded fixture reminds me of Dawnsveil; a triangular fort installation.  The statue details a mighty explorer and colonist who helped what was likely once a settlement grow.  Markers and archeological dig sites mark the land, with only a few remaining buildings likely in the hand of these scholars.  But, one thing stands out to me.  The vision of a little girl.  She hovers around one of the dig sites, where she promptly collapses in anguish, over and over.  Upon reaching the youth, she acknowledges me and vanishes.  Eerie.  No matter, best of luck to their excavation.  My next destination?  A jail cell, as a man and a woman with badges saying “ranger” apprehended me.  They didn’t look much like rangers.  After accusations of drunken trespassing, I explained my story.  I got taken to a mental hospital, where I came up as a man suffering “brain injury” with no known records of who I am.  With staff being as occupied with my case, the window of escape had been opened to me.  I’m not much for theft, but a bit of loose paper moneys from the doctor examining my cranium should prove helpful.  Now out and about, I trailed the night along a busy road.  Automatic chariots line the ways, far more advanced than any hypothetical Lamordian science.  I dare not cross them, lest my innards get caught in their wheels.  Plus, the hospital was nice enough to clean my clothes, no sense in ruining them so fast.  A new destination is upon me, the Colony of Williams Burg.

A mixture of denizens in garb not too different from what I’m accustomed to, as well as the strange riff raff of nearby areas.  Fascinating.  In fact, a woman gardening outside of a Wythe estate complimented me on my superior sense of fashion.  I’m glad I switched back to my true garb.  Overall, a leisurely day of learning about the local town while evading a dispatched constable on the look out for an “escaped mental patient”.  As the forces of luck would have it, places of immense supernatural energy have a habit of manifesting in a variety of ways.  The Wythe house appears to be one such place.  As an lecturer told us much of a man who was a scholar, man of law, scientist, teacher and more; the lecturer ended on a grim note.  Devoid of other heirs, the man was visited by a debaucherous profligate of a nephew, seeking his fortune.  The two were at odds, as Wythe was an established and respect member of the community; his nephew, a lowly degenerate who chased cheap pleasures.  Amidst a day of dining, the nephew poisoned his uncle with arsenic.  As Wythe died in agony, he rope the despicable villain out of his will.  As I heard that and moved to the room where the poisoning happened, a strange effect came over me.  Sinkholes of Supernatural Energy.  In this case, time!  In a mere instant, day turned to night and the lecturer was replaced by another.  This one garnered a different crowd, illuminated by candlelight!  Making my exit, the new lecturer told of the house making its own noises, locking at strange times and more.  At that moment, I made the mistake and darting to an exit and closing the door.  A cacophony of screams filled the building.  Far from my intent and far from a real haunt!

A crowd of people file into a tavern, what luck!  This Chownings establishment looks like a fine place to relax.  I shall join them in merriment!  But, in addition fine dining, another lecturer sets a grim mood.  Surely this is the time of harvest season or winter time?  It’s always around then when people share ghost stories…  This time, the story of a gambler who became frustrated at any chance of failure.  During a game that turned against the gambler’s favor, the boastful loon made a horrid decree.  That, he should bet his soul, have his skin scorched and his eyes wide open, should he win against impossible odds.  The other men of the tavern supposedly scoffed at the mad gibberish… until he defeated the entire table, without so much as an unfair play.  The men were bewildered, accusing him of selling his soul to a devil.  The gambler, smug, turned himself in for the night.  The next morning, an employee sent for maintenance knocked and emerged in the room.  Before her, a burnt corpse with eyes wide open, a stench of rot and seared flesh.  At the moment of the tale’s end, foot steps heard upstairs.  Some guests quaked, while other applauded the ambience… but, not before the burnt and rotten smell trailed from upstairs.  The lecturer ushered everyone else, using a device to notify “security”.  Following the crowd, I dispersed.

It seems a tour was taking place, more lantern bearers roam the street with crowds, detailing macabre history of the town.  I overhear one as I near the Randolph House.  A lecturer tells of an abused woman in slavery service to the wife of the Randolph estate.  Before her demise, the woman exclaimed a curse that wished tragedy upon those who would dare try to live in this place.  At that moment, as I peered into the building, it quaked.  Lighted flickered and the voice of a woman with a distant dialect rang.  She screamed fell curses as the artificial Lamordian lights shattered.  As guests and lecturers ran out in an emotional state of horror, I found myself mixed with the mob.  This, this was a real haunt.

And just beyond a courthouse building, I saw my smoldering foe.  In his hands, a knife and a pistol.  The ashen zombie beckoned me over, as the rest fled in the opposite direction.  Before I could get my dual, an officer in blue uniform shows up and shouts at the creature.  It shambles toward the officer with pistol readied.  The two stand off in a dual, as the officer makes the first move.  Impressively, his firearm unloads multiple shots!  Unheard of!  The corpse cackles and unloads his regular gun at point blank, the officer falling over dead.  It then turns its focus to me, sparking cinders in its eyes and a bellowing smoke from its jaw.  As if helped by unseen spirits, the gun seems to reload itself.  Once again, the charred monster beckons me.  I’m a bard, not a warrior.  Death by flames or bullets is imminent.

 

 

District of Columbia, City of Washington

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A house of governance… and conspiracy

More cold.  But, it’s not water.  No, it’s metal, a flat slab!  My eyes come to, no more diabolic drunken ghoul!  A stinging wound in my torso, it must have shot me!  Instead of a colonial reenactment village, I see people in peculiar suits.  They leer at my strapped in body, as if I somehow have the potential to escape.  Blinding lights hover on and off of my face, giving only glimpses of the activity these strange people are up to.  But, all of that comes to an end, when one dressed in some physician’s garb flicks a finger against a syringe.  I know where this goes next…

Once again, awakened, now chained to a chain like some petty criminal.  The room is white with a table, another chair and a mirror sheet… probably enchanted.  And behind me, the sound of a creaking door, slightly grinding on the white floor below.  One of those men emerges, he carries a board plus a complex device.  Seconds to minutes to hours, I’m questioned and quizzed with all sorts of absurd topics; many involve this collective provincial empire that I know nothing about… save for a few apparent “living history” museums that I bumbled through and some coastal entertainment complex of sorts.  Two more people arrive after the tirades and babbling of the inquisitive suit man.  My only takeaway is that I was found and escorted due to my survival with minions of “The Red Death”.  That name, there it is again.  Like cargo, I’m hoisted off the charge and onto some manual hand cart, carried through an equally featureless hall and into some kind of mine shaft elevator.  What follows?  I dare not say, they wiped those memories from my mind.  But, I recall a few brief blips of supernatural phenomena and things likely not of this world.

Now, another room; far more decorated!  Rugs, swiveling chairs, a finished wooden table, the emblem of their empire adorned on a small pole, wooden wall paneling, even shaded windows to the outside world.  A new entourage files in, with a wizardly looking gentleman in a white coat arriving last with a board containing writing, “Red Death”.  There it was again.  Upon witnessing my aghast reaction, a representative attempts to calm me by explaining that he is a chair head of a “Hoffman Institute”, a secret chapter of some sort of government that allows for research into the paranormal.  He believes that I was pulled through some means of “Shadow Rift” that has been taking mass from a world they dub “Arcanum” and displacing into theirs.  They’re partially right, especially about the Shadow Rift name.  They require my help on this latest puzzle piece to a grander conspiracy.  The cloak wizard presents a market and points to their flawed diagram, detailing an incorrect cosmology regarding “Arcanum” and its connections to a “Planet Earth”.  To my own credit, my correct model was based on loose memory and traumatic experience.  I showcase “The Great Wheel”, “The Demiplane of Dread”, the expansive space of “The Prime Material” and more.  While much of this board room is skeptical, they seem impressed by the depth I describe these matters.  Even so, some of the board wish to deliberate in private, to see if I’m “material” for aiding this Institute.  Their last words, rejection is not permitted, chill me slightly.

 

 

The Town of Glenrio

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A pit stop, for an unused road.

The lexicon in this region, it seems familiar to the dialects used by my own people of the Savage Coast.  Curiously, I was essentially immune to the Red Curse of my homeland.  It’s no wonder I was sought after (including to be killed).  But, musings over for now.  This small town was likely a caravan stop between territories, a way point for weary travelers and those on the road.  Such places are quite functional.  It begs the question why this one fell into ruin.  Locals explain that a new travel route redirected traffic and destroyed the commerce that this stretch relied on.  This stop was quite the site for travelers and tourists alike, ranging from strange gimmick wares to places of various comforts.  More so a local pop up economy versus a more stable one to begin with.  But, I am not a man of the coin, the merchant, so who I am to say?  A shame.  But, I’m not here to ponder over the past.

One lone traveler reported to the Institute that the town miraculously came alive.  Of course, things have never been that simple.  The victim was with others on a road trip who didn’t hear about the town before, stopping at what looked like a quaint resting place of yesteryear, at least by their own calendar.  Little did the fools know that a ghostly mirage was cast upon the abandoned Glenrio, taking most of them soon after.  And apparently just like that, the resting town went back to its dilapidated state.  The derelict rests, waiting for more to enter its maw.  And that is why we’re here, on the outskirts of some grand republic of Texas, or so the historical texts say.  But, for such a landmass that proves to be quite expansive, it’s a well fitting title.

The stretching road ahead looks nothing like as the Texan folk have described it.  In fact, it’s eerily nice.  But, the supernatural loves to play tricks on the feeble of mind and poor  of perception.  This magically refurbished road side has all means of tacky small stores, relaxation hubs and more.  And more odd, the people look slightly anachronistic from those we’ve met before.  They seem to pay no mind to a caravan of military vehicles passing through either.  Quite an uncanny swath of land already.  At first glance, everything is just a parody of normalcy.  It’s this idyllic lens of a past landscape, for certain.

Agents, with the backup of some intense security have been asking the locals about strange phenomena, all while various detection devices mysteriously fail.  They know the obvious answer, but they still wish to do things their own way.  Disguised in their lackey garb, I ask my own sets of questions; specific things on the paranormal.  Beyond some stares and accusations of “conspiring with dark forces”, the locals are ignorant about a lot of “the strangeness”.  However, opening a mobile laboratory inside one of the trucks and into a tent set up did spark a fair bit of outrage.  The machines failed within minutes as locals began to gather.  Some of the more on edge soldiers began slightly escalating the situation by hollering at the amassing crowds to get back.  The mob responded with telling us to leave now or suffer the consequences.  Seeing as the Hoffman Institute are not made of morons, they agreed…  Somewhat.  We moved everything and shipped out, setting camp a ways from the town.  Studying the locals, they’re still bickering and complaining about us outsiders.  The general negativity is affecting them and the town landscape.  Everything decays from a lovely illusion to a decrepit ghost town.  Likewise, the residents transition from lively and neighborly folk to the walking dead.  A loud man with a mayoral sash and large hat demands everyone maintain composure to ensure their plans hold together.  Plans…

The night went by without much issue.  As one would expect, the desert retains no heat within the sand, so bundling up was a must.  Not an issue for a wandering bard, of course!  Preparedness is a must!  The daylight of the sun peers over the horizon, as the town has returned to its lush, utopian state of being.  The ghost villagers mill about, waiting for a wayward mortal to drive their way.  In fact, one does!  The team mobilizes once more, as the villagers try to escort a car filled with a lost family to one of their hotels.  In a few minutes, the agents return, some of which with antiquated versions of their paranormal research tech.

Luckily, the ghosts can’t seem to affect it, sparking their rage once more!  The family breaks free of their rotting hosts, running to cover.  Meanwhile, Hoffman Institute does battle against the Unliving!  And, what a perfect time to share my own prowess of the arcane!  Weapon wielders and occultists alike feel an extra charge as the push against the ghosts slowly turns in their favor.  Enhanced strength, bolstered concentration, guiding magics and more to even the field against the angered spirits.  They say the bard is weak.  Situations like this pain these critics as fools!  However, the ghost town itself begins to conspire, debris and chunks breaking off from old buildings become makeshift projectiles.  The town begins to close in on the convoy, troopers and significantly less impressive people (like myself).

Fortunately, this place still runs on electricity and my own magical talents proved to be enough to whip up a greatly improved bolt of lightning.  Sadly, rescuing any victims was well beyond my skill.  Any allies quickly scatter as the waves of death move toward the electricity bouncing around my fingers.  With a leaping shot of raw lightning, I shatter the ectoplasmic evil! … for now.  At least for the time being, the ghost town rests.  A chunk of sign flew over to me from the explosion, as if by an omen, from an inn and restaurant building.  It simply read, “Last Stop”.

 

 

Locust Grove Camp Site

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This looks extremely bad….

That last “assignment” could have gone better.  Of course, it could have gone worse.  In fact, I don’t feel like I’m part of the time, so much as an imprisoned oddity that they’re using to their benefit.  For the common good, bah!  At least a lot of the people look upon me with favorable views.  Well, onto the next big advenure.  It always seems to be about cults.  And this wouldn’t be a familiar experience without a Domain of Dread.  I had hoped I would escape this, but that familiar feeling.  It came over me.  I somewhat felt it in James Town, but it didn’t pull me in.  Likewise in the coastal ship I found myself upon.  But here, it feels strong.  The energies here are truly evil.

By escort of the team, I find myself in what was once called “Camp Scott”.  According to mission information, such a place was a thriving summer retreat, especially for youth.  The Girl Scouts is the name of the organization that utilized these grounds.  However, the murders from a heartless killer caused the camp to close forever more.  The murderer’s dark energies supposedly resonate within the land.  The resulting sinkhole of evil attracts all means of sinister forces into the outskirts.  The woods themselves conspire against visitors.  My otherwise stoic team seems at unease, for once.  This is somehow worse than gusting ghosts, demonic dead and related ilk.  At least with those locations, the emanating dread was far less intense.  This place, it radiates a presence that could affect the most emotionally dull.  It’s an aura of pain, anguish and hate.  While the lost souls of the slain girls cry out in sadness, hoping for peace; the soul of the murderer is one of blood thirst and viciousness.  And worse, the latter seems to be awakening.

According to record, authorities did capture and put a man that they thought was responsible for the depraved acts against innocent youth.  Needless to say, he perished in prison without any true evidence of his guilt.  However, his soul isn’t the one that the spiritualists among the agency  picked up on.  This one is an unknown, one transformed by whatever Dark Powers circle this “Earth”.  Long since stripped of its real name, the killer is just a raw essence of evil, returned to continue hellish acts and wicked crimes beyond any compass of scruples or reason.  While the chill of this creature can be felt throughout the region, it seems to haunt the ruins of this once beloved grounds for camping.  It feels compelled to remain here, as if its sick deeds were the cause of its change into its current unknown form.  In a sense, it is very much its own lord of darkness.

Given how I handled last assignment, we were tasked with rendezvous with a recon team sent in to scout the haunted camp.  It quickly looks like they underestimated their enemy.  The camp carries the feeling of death, but now it smells of fresh slaying.  Normally, I speak of matters in more jovial or comedic tones, this place quells that well.  At last, one of the reconnaissance soldiers!  He speaks in croaked and strained words, a warning to us.  He passes the warning that the essence told them.  The creature admitted to heinous acts of mutilation, rape, torture and murder.  The thing also informed that should the team not leave soon, it might try to toy with them.  At which, it promptly possessed one soldier after another and forces them to turn weapons on each other.  The gasping soldier in the now lifts his hand from his torso, revealing multiple deadly wounds.  The body falls limp, collapsing upon old porch wood and dried leaves.

Soon after, more paranormal teams arrive, complete with equipment for dealing with something of the more diabolic nature.  All are screened near the entry way of the campsite, to ensure no one suffers possession.  The other harrowing encounters were disturbing, but this one grabs at me.  To free the souls of fallen children, to vanquish an evil taken to new heights, this would truly be an act of good.  Into accursed lands once more, we search for the presence, well armed with scholars in the eldritch, warriors trained against unspeakable evils and those with connections to the divine beyond.  Two hours of pacing along the defiled ground, readings begin to twist and flail, as the cracking and whirring of radars sound off evil is afoot.  A gust bellows from the woods.  A barely visible force cuts amidst the trees, snapping branches and catching leaves.  The wildlife in its way burst into a disgusting red mist against it.

The team’s orders, remain calm and focused.  Those of psychic potential maintain their warded hold over peoples’ minds as those of faith will do all they can to ensure everyone’s souls are too pure for the evil.  Just as the whooshing mass darts across the woods, it stops short of our huddled group.  A slight wind dances around the layers of circles marked around us.  It waits and hungers, like a predatory great cat readying to pounce.  Out of the ether, a collection of voices taunt us.  It congratulates our survival thus far, balking at our mortal limits.  It can swirl around us forever, but we will have to make our move at some point.  The killer thing was correct.  It begins to kick up dust in attempt to desecrate the barriers.  Warriors and soldiers open fire, piercing into the creature with weapons blessed through prayer.  The horror hisses and begins to slink back, cursing us for our actions.  Ironic.  I too join in aiding these occult experts as I can, chanting and reciting verse to empower or straight out using the arcane to join the fight.  However, the thing mocks us from the shadows.  We were but cornered prey fighting from one point of light.  All it needs to do is ruin the circles.

And then a theory comes to mind, why not funnel the evil through direct points?  I relay plans through silent gesture, but they seemed to grasp the idea well enough.  Much of the circle was protected from corrosion, save for intentionally ignored segments.  The murderer thing takes the bait!  Funneling through our maze, we overwhelm the obsessive killer with a counter attack.   Of energies divine, mystical arts, otherworldly arcana or tactical assault; the onslaught overwhelms the entity.  A final prayer spoken by a soldier adorned in priestly garb sets a holy spark upon the dark essence.  It screeches, finally showing true pain, as radiant light crackles and branches throughout an amorphous mass.  The energy thing bursts not a moment later in a resplendent rush, with a mere hissing trailing into the void.  In minutes, the dark miasma hanging over the camp fades, revealing the sad remains of broken dreams.  I cannot say for certain if the souls of this final resting place were granted peace or justice.  But, may they find some guidance or prayer to help them into whatever realm follows this one.

 

 

The City of Chicago

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Into the mind of a mad man!

It took many days to shake off the sheer sense of dread.  But, all the same, I have few places to go.  From what I can fathom, I still haven’t assimilated to the ways of this world.  The customs are strange, the technologies are stranger.  However, the supernatural threats feel all too familiar.  And, for all the faults of this Hoffman Institute keeping me a secret from the world, they’ve proved to be helpful if not skilled in their own fights against extraordinary dangers.  And on the subject of dangers…

H. H. Holmes, a name that speaks of a true darklord.  Cunning and corrupt, a strategic murderer as well.  While the previous darklord was something so detached from humanity, this one has a name and a face.  His infamy speaks many volumes, none shall let him rest.  While the prior case tried to squeeze into obscurity to continue his terror, this one relishes in his grotesque infamy.  What is asked of us is not some hunt against an obscure evil, but a face-off against notorious history; a widely documented case that seems to have started a major shift in the culture of this nation.  From what I can gather, the modern “serial killer” was credited to the vile deeds of this man.  During the Purge against the Minions of the Red Death, it is said that Holmes was smart enough to hide away and not get caught.  In the years that followed, the influence of Mists came along with the Red Death’s power, giving Holmes a domain of his own.  Within a dark mirror of Chicago, the World’s Fair Hotel emerges from a misty wall.  Where an otherwise vacant lot would be, this sinkhole of evil emerges.  The man himself will often greet guests, promoting an intentionally cheap facade.  This is to trick guests into thinking they’re entering some roadside exploitation attraction.  In reality, this is the true hotel, restored much like Holmes himself.

And we’ve proven lucky enough to find the portal key into this pocket domain.  Truly lucky.  Like a regular hotel, it runs its own schedule and methodology.  A mass of people couldn’t rush the building.  They must act like patrons interested in hotel service.  Something so simple, yet so brilliant and apt.  “Small crowds” make their way into the main lobby area, as the maniac himself greets us with a rye sense of skepticism in his stare.  He begins to “head to his office”, as an associate takes over, who leads us down a hall.  At which point, more of the team flanks and stops the associate.  He panics and lets out a shout.  Holmes’ laugh fills the air as small pipes burst with minute holes.  A vaporous gas begins to fill the hotel, as Holmes’ ethereal voice taunts about modifications that he has been pondering over the years.  Some of the team suit up with gasmasks, while others try to evade the gas by any means possible.  The wiry accomplice slinks away, as if by magic.  Agents who can’t breath split off to a non gassed area, while those who can endure begin kicking down doors, readied for anything.  It does beg the question, if I’m better as a scholar, why didn’t this institute keep me in their headquarters?  I’d be so much more useful studying and relaying information.  But instead, I’m fighting supernatural evils, when I am no fighter.  These Terrans are strange.

Many of the kicked open chambers reveal countless dead, some being sucked into some kind of tube structure.  Eventually, the armed and dangerous find a staircase (one which isn’t trapped) leading into the basement.  The scenery has transitioned from death maze to laboratory of the macabre.  It looks like some sort of medical examination chamber, befitting of Dr. Holmes’ physician training.  Reports on him stated that he did try to make a scam business of killing victims and messing with the bodies for insurance money.  it’s likely that he continued his scams down here.  And, as if to deter and intimidate, these steel body shoots deposited several slain operatives and unit members onto medical tables.  The image proved chilling, all of them suffering a variety of deaths that the Murder Castle became infamous for.

Near an exit leading outside, the man himself stood in smug defiance.  He challenged us to strike first.  Some took the bait, as a wall of bodies magically flung to his aid.  Bullets and incantations fly into former comrades and anonymous subjects of Holmes, the defense of a despicable coward.  From a nearby shelf, Holmes opens a book and recites a passage.  The voices, they return.  The madman then flees as the bodies collapse.  But, not before a familiar visage emerges.  The Red Death.  The avatar of doom blockades the exit, as agents begin to follow back upstairs.  The hotel itself begins to warp, as I stay frozen in place.  Sounds of squishing and crunching fill all spaces around me, as the walls shift and warp.  Screams of the team quickly die down, as it’s just myself and the thing that shouldn’t be.  It mocks me, acknowledging my travels from the Demiplane of Dread.  The creature calls forth a mist not seen in this dimension, wishing me a farewell and safe travels.  Oh no, it’s happening again!  Space and time bend within this sinkhole of evil.  I guess I am not long for Terra.  Some day, I might face this Red Death again.  Much of me hopes that this isn’t the case.  But, why did it cast me away instead of kill me?  Mysteries, many mysteries.

 

IMAGE CREDITS: TSR Inc. – Masque of the Red Death box art logo; New Jersey Tourism – Asbury Park Greeting Card; Colonial Ghosts – Payton Randolph House; Hall Groats II – National Mall; Worldbuilder – Tex Cafe; Girl Scout Murders – Camp Scott sign; history.com – the Murder Castle

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