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Arkham Horror- Ire of the Void, page 1

 

Arkham Horror- Ire of the Void
 

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Arkham Horror- Ire of the Void


  Arkham Horror Fiction

  The Investigators of Arkham Horror

  Hour of the Huntress

  Cover illustration by Shane Pierce.

  This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  © 2018 Fantasy Flight Games. Fantasy Flight Games and the FFG logo are registered trademarks of Fantasy Flight Games. Arkham Horror is a trademark of Fantasy Flight Games.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

  Fantasy Flight Games

  1995 West County Road B2

  Roseville, MN 55113

  USA

  Find out more about Fantasy Flight Games and our many exciting worlds at www.FantasyFlightGames.com

  v1.0

  Welcome to Arkham

  It is the height of the roaring twenties. Flappers and young fellas dance the Charleston at raucous jazz clubs gleaming bright with electric lights. Beneath this gilded glamour, bloody turf wars rage, funded by gangsters and crooked cops who frequent rival speakeasies and gambling dens.

  Amid these changing times, old New England towns hold their secrets close. Off the Aylesbury pike, in reclusive Dunwich, rolling hills hide decrepit farms and witch-haunted hollows. Past Cape Ann, the remote fishing village of Innsmouth rots from within. At the mouth of the Miskatonic River, mist-shrouded Kingsport lies dreaming. All the while, historic Arkham broods on the upper banks of the Miskatonic, its famed university delving into the world’s darkest, most ancient mysteries.

  Arkham’s citizens insist everything is normal in their sleepy town, but horrific and bizarre events occur with increasing frequency. Strange lights flicker and people disappear in the forest beyond Hangman’s Brook. Misshapen silhouettes prowl graveyards and shorelines, leaving savaged corpses in their wake. Nightmarish artifacts and disturbing tomes have surfaced, chronicling gods and incantations the world has tried to forget. Cavalier scientists have glimpsed far-flung worlds beyond our own that shatter the known laws of reality. Are these events somehow connected? If so, what calamity do they portend?

  Those who dare investigate these incidents witness the inexplicable. Having seen such phenomena, they can never regain their old view of the world. Now that they know the hideous truth, they cannot run or hide from it. Just beneath the reassuring veneer of reality—a veneer that was never meant to be worn away—are forces that can drive the average person to despair. Yet, a rare few try to avert the end of the world, knowing it may well cost them their lives or sanity.

  These investigators must rely on their wits and skills to learn as much as they can before it’s too late. Some may find courage in the grace of a rosary, while others may burn away their fears with a swig of bootleg whiskey. They must try their hand at unpredictable spells that could doom them, or take up rifles and revolvers to combat foul creatures plaguing the night. Will it be enough?

  Part One

  The Barn

  1

  Norman Withers was accustomed to empty seats. He was not a popular instructor, he did not take attendance, and his lectures were redundant with the textbook. Still, today, the classroom was emptier than usual, and for no reason he could think of.

  “Mr. Davison,” he said, addressing a perpetually sweaty, twitchy student who never missed a single one of Norman’s classes or, in all likelihood, any other professor’s.

  Davison gave a start as if he had been caught doing something reprehensible instead of paying scrupulous attention and writing copious notes. “Yes, sir?” he squeaked.

  “Where is everyone? Is something else going on today?”

  “Well, sir, Claus Schmidt is giving a guest lecture. I think some people went to hear him.” The boy cringed as though he feared Norman would be offended and take out the resentment on him.

  In truth, even had Norman been so inclined, he was too busy feeling shocked that he’d heard nothing of this to bother with such a vindictive response. Perhaps, as the secretaries were forever scolding him, he should check the cubbyhole that was his faculty mailbox on days other than payday.

  “The Claus Schmidt?” he asked. “The one who collaborates with Albert Einstein?”

  If so, this was the physicist widely acclaimed as Einstein’s brilliant young protégé. While still working toward his doctorate, Schmidt had participated in Eddington’s expedition that provided observational verification of general relativity, and had since aided Einstein himself in calculating the cosmological constant and establishing relativistic cosmology. It was extraordinary that such a luminary—a European luminary, at that—had suddenly materialized in Arkham, Massachusetts.

  “Yes, sir,” Davison said.

  “Where is he speaking? The big auditorium in the Science building?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Class dismissed.”

  Norman hurried from the classroom ahead of any of his students, rushed past the foundation for the new observatory, and broke into a run at the Miskatonic University quad, breezing by its silver maples and sycamores. Strolling or lounging on benches, young scholars smirked or chuckled as he dashed past.

  Their amusement prompted him to duck into one of the Science building’s men’s rooms and try to make himself presentable. The mirror showed a scarecrow of a man. His scraggly white beard needed trimming, and his hair stuck up every which way. His tie was loose and askew, and his tweed suit had gone weeks without a pressing.

  It was too late to remedy all of that, but he would do the best he could. He reached into his pocket, found he had no comb, and smoothed down his hair with his hand. Then he fixed his tie, straightened his lapels, and proceeded to the auditorium. As he reached for the door, laughter pealed on the other side. Apparently the young physicist seasoned his lectures with humor.

  Norman found a seat in the back of the hall. Claus Schmidt was a stout, cheerful-looking young man dressed in what was, for a scientist, a surprisingly stylish Lindbergh jacket. His English was excellent, only lightly accented, and he clearly relished American slang, slipping terms like “razz” and “bushwa” into his discourse.

  Taken altogether, the jokes, the slang, and his friendly, animated manner made his subject matter all the more accessible. He was speaking on Theodor Kaluza’s attempt to extend general relativity into five dimensions—an abstruse topic to say the least, but he was clearly holding his audience’s attention.

  The lecturer concluded to enthusiastic applause. A significant portion of the audience rose from their seats and headed for the front of the auditorium to congratulate him. Although he tried not to be completely rude about it, Norman elicited glowers and complaints as he squeezed and jostled forward. He did not want the physicist to disappear through one of the side exits before he reached him.

  As he neared the podium, the German said, “I didn’t come here expecting to lecture. I hope I didn’t ball it up.”

  Professor Grant smiled, his bald crown gleaming, spectacles slipped halfway down a prominent nose. “It was wonderful. Now, can we offer you some lunch? The roast beef in the Faculty Club is excellent.”

  “Danke,” said Schmidt, “thank you, but I really should be about my business. If you found me a car and driver—”

  “I’ll drive you!” Norman called.

  Grant and several other faculty members turned to eye him askance. The bald academic cleared his throat. “That is kind of you, Professor Norman. But someone has already made
arrangements.”

  Norman turned to the youthful Schmidt in his modish clothes. “I know Arkham. Wherever you’re going, I’ll get you there and take you in style. I’ve got a Stutz Bearcat.” The sports car was left over from better times when he—and his wife—took pleasure in such extravagances.

  Schmidt’s blue eyes opened wide. “Is it a breezer?”

  “It is indeed.”

  The physicist turned back to Grant. “Thank you for all you’ve done. But since Professor…Norman, is it?…is here now, offering, I might as well take him up on it.”

  Grant grimaced. “Well, should there be a problem…that is to say, should you require another driver for any reason, just let me know.”

  2

  Norman had not lowered the Bearcat’s canvas top in years. But it was a mild, sunny September day, and his companion was excited that the two-seater with its doghouse hood was a convertible, so he fumbled his way through the half-forgotten procedure.

  Schmidt stowed a black leather valise in the trunk and then handed Norman a list of addresses. “In any order,” he said. “Whatever’s convenient.”

  There was nothing about the list to indicate why the German was interested in these particular locations. Norman supposed Schmidt would enlighten him in due course. “We might as well start in Southside and work our way north,” he said.

  Once the trip was underway, Schmidt availed himself of the unobstructed view to take in the city’s Georgian houses with their dentilwork cornices, side-gabled or gambrel roofs, and double chimneys. “Charming,” he said.

  “I suppose,” Norman said, “at the moment.” When he thought of Arkham, he thought of gray skies, gray walls, and decay.

  Schmidt chuckled at Norman’s dour tone. “So level with me, old boy. Why didn’t Grant and those others want you to drive me? What’s their beef?”

  Norman winced. “I am not sure what you mean.”

  “Tell it to Sweeney! You’re on the outs. So am I, back home. That’s why I came with you. Well, that and the car. I’ll tell you about it, but you go first.”

  Norman needed to confide in the younger man, or Schmidt could not possibly help him. Even so, he felt reluctant. It was pleasant being in the company of a colleague who did not see him as eccentric, if not unhinged. It would pain him to lose the physicist’s good opinion if that was how things worked out.

  Peering squarely through the sports car’s monocle windshield—so as not to see how Schmidt reacted to his story—he took a long breath and began. “I am an astronomer. Some of my work involves discovering and cataloging new stars. On March 11th, 1916, I found six faint stars in the vicinity of Canis Major. Then they vanished all at once, literally within seconds of one another, and have never reappeared.”

  “Given interstellar distances,” Schmidt said, “I don’t know of a phenomenon to account for that.”

  “Nor do I,” Norman said. “Nor did anyone. Without exception, other astronomers deemed it more plausible that I never really observed the stars in the first place. Eyestrain, they said. Smudges. Meteors. But I know what I saw!”

  “And you’ve never been able to let it go,” said Schmidt.

  “It’s that obvious, is it? Yes, I never stopped looking for the answer, and it’s blighted my scientific reputation. I don’t suppose I’d have retained my position at Miskatonic if not for tenure and the fact that I still put in time doing conventional research and publish the occasional journal article.”

  He could have added that as he had grown increasingly obsessed with the mystery, it had blighted his marriage as well. Eventually, Bernadine divorced him and moved to Los Angeles to be near their daughter, but why pick at that wound? It would only make him look even more pathetic than he likely appeared already.

  “If the vanishing stars are the focus of your work,” said Schmidt, “and you were so eager to make contact with me, then you must believe I can help you somehow.”

  “Yes. You—you, Einstein, your circle—are discovering revolutionary new truths about the workings of the universe. I hoped that if I prevailed on you to consider my findings, you’d have some fresh insight to offer.”

  “I have to confess, nothing is springing to mind. But you’re helping with my research. Afterward, it seems only fair that I take a serious look at yours. Then we’ll see if I might actually be able to contribute.”

  Norman hesitated. “I hope you aren’t just humoring me. If you think I’m babbling nonsense, you can say it.”

  “But I don’t think it, or at least I don’t assume it. Now that I’ve been told that my own current line of research is a load of horsefeathers, I’m less inclined to dismiss the ideas of others out of hand.”

  Norman pulled the brake lever at one of Arkham’s four electric traffic signals, erected two years previously. “What is that line of research? I have to say, I am puzzled as to what problem of physics is better investigated driving around Miskatonic County than in your laboratory in Berlin.”

  “How familiar are you with general relativity?”

  “Reasonably so. Your discipline is relevant to mine.” The traffic signal turned green. Norman waited for a horse-drawn wagon to clear the intersection, then put the Bearcat in gear.

  “Then you know the theory connects the curvature of space-time to the density of mass in the vicinity. To gravity.”

  “Yes. By so doing, it explains the anomalous perihelion advance of Mercury and the deflection of starlight Eddington observed during the solar eclipse of ’19.”

  “Exactly. My own scientific heresy has been to connect the idea that space-time can be curved, twisted, warped not just to what we observe in the sky but also to phenomena here on Earth. People disappear mysteriously. Sometimes they even appear just as strangely, peculiar souls who don’t seem to belong in the times or places in which they’re discovered. If there are discontinuities—folds or holes—in the structure of reality, people could blunder into them and find themselves transported.”

  Norman frowned. “Surely these disappearances are either legends or events that, were we privy to all the facts, would prove to have a mundane explanation.”

  “There are more such incidents than you may suppose, in every land and era, and some have been extensively studied without any convincing explanation emerging.”

  “Well…fair enough, I suppose. But unless I misunderstand them entirely, Einstein’s field equations don’t allow for the extreme distortions you’re proposing. Not on a body with the mass of the Earth, and not at one point on the surface but not another.”

  “But what,” Schmidt asked, “if general relativity, though predictive at a certain level just as Newton’s laws are, is similarly incomplete? What if something other than mass is also capable of bending space-time? I hope to prove it is, and then science can figure out the what and the how.”

  “And you can prove this by touring Arkham?”

  Schmidt smiled. “I hope so, old boy, because of your history. You may not realize it, but since the town was founded it has had an amazing number of unexplained disappearances. My plan is to collect data in the places where they happened.”

  Norman mulled that over. “This was your ‘scientific heresy.’”

  “Einstein is sure it’s applesauce. But he can’t be right all the time, can he?”

  Perhaps not, but in this instance the eminent physicist seemed far more likely to be right than his protégé. Norman sighed at the realization that Schmidt could not really help him after all. Once, conceivably, but not now that he had given himself over to nonsensical pseudoscience. Perhaps it was not too late to make an excuse, foist the German off on the driver Professor Grant had offered, and salvage the rest of the day.

  Suddenly, it occurred to Norman that he was dismissing Schmidt exactly as his fellow astronomers dismissed him, and for pursuing a line of investigation arguably no unlikelier than his own.

  Damn it, he wasn’t going to be like them! Not because he believed Schmidt’s notions were correct, but because the
young man’s attitude was. A scientist shouldn’t bow down to an argument from authority, even if the authority was Albert Einstein. He should go where his instincts led him and collect evidence to confirm or deny a hypothesis.

  Besides, it was pleasant driving the Bearcat around on a sunny day with the top down. He had forgotten. He was a bit sorry when he and Schmidt arrived at the first spot on their itinerary.

  3

  The old house stood with the steeple of South Church peeking over the hipped roof like a priest suspicious that someone was robbing the poor box. Even under a blue sky, the structure’s appearance was in accord with Norman’s impression of Arkham as a crumbling, decrepit habitation. Sickly yellow paint peeled from the clapboards, and the multi-pane windows were grimy. One was cracked.

  As soon as Norman pulled up at the curb, Schmidt jumped out of the Bearcat. “Open the trunk!”

  For a moment, a smile tugged at the corners of Norman’s mouth. His companion was as impatient as a child at the entrance to a carnival. “I take it you have high hopes for this place.”

  “In 1774,” Schmidt replied, “responding to the Suffolk Resolves, five of Arkham’s community leaders entered a room in this house to discuss the organization of a militia and never came out. That’s the space we’re going to investigate.”

  Norman was half-embarrassed, half-amused that he did not know what the Suffolk Resolves were when a foreigner did. He picked up the valise, and metal clinked inside it. As he carried it toward the portico, he spotted the sign beside the panel door: Apartments for Rent.

  “If someone has altered the floor plan—”

  “We should still be able to identify the right spot,” Schmidt replied. “We just need a little luck.” He opened the door, stepped into a foyer, and headed down the hallway that ran past a staircase toward the rear of the building. “I think we want the last door on the right.”

  A tinny radio was playing “Riverboat Shuffle,” as performed by Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines, on the other side of the door, which had a brass number 5 screwed onto it. Schmidt knocked, and after a moment a small woman with a face like a fist and mouse-brown hair in curlers responded.

 
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