Campaign of the Month: July 2008

Beyond the Mountains of Madness

Chapter 16: The Black Rat and Chapter 17: Ab Initio

Although the seas are rough, the first couple of days of sailing are peaceful enough. On December 23, however, it becomes clear that the voyage home will not be without incident. Several crew members are dragged to First Officer Turlow for judgement. One, Humphries, says that he’s been robbed by Beakins and White, his cabin mates. He claims that two black opals have been stolen from him. From his descriptions, the Investigators know immediately that seeds of the Imprisoned God have been brought aboard the Gabrielle. A rapid radio message to Lexington and Moore aboard the Wilhelmina alerts their friends to the possibility that they may have problems as well.

They investigate, finding that the tobacco jar Humphries kept the opals in is oddly clean. Not even the smell of tobacco lingers in it. What’s more, they find odd corrosive stipling on the floor that leads beneath the radiator. They find that whatever it was ate through the floor, falling into a shower below, but they can find no teace of where it went from there. They alert Captain Vredenburgh about the possibility of the black stones being toxic, and, while he doesn’t fully believe them, he believes that they believe the stones to be dangerous. He okays them to investigate further.

Deducing that the seeds have become animate due to heat, they arm themselves with some of the CO2 fire extinguishers around the ship. They find nothing, however, until the next morning, December 24, when one of the crew, Brunel, is heard screaming in the steering engine room. They find him with a huge chunk of his thigh gone down to the bone. Carrington, Allen, and Roylott carry Brunel to the sick bay, while Nordhagen, Dezense, and Meyer investigate the open hatch to the engine itself. There, they find Beakins and another crew member, O’Toole, guarding a small black blob in a metal fire bucker. Horrified by the littlem onster, and tired of encounters with monsters, they thoroughly blast it with the fire extinguishers, bury it in sand from another fire bucker, and then dump it into the ocean, hoping that the extreme cold of the ocean floor will force it to go dormant. Nordhagen points out, however, that Humphries said he had two black opals.

Captain Vrendenburgh is quite furious about something being on board his ship, hurting his crew. He orders the investigators to deal with it, and they formulate various plans, including turning off the heat sources and waiting for the monster in the engine room, hoping it will be attracted to the heat. As more and more time goes by without incident, however, they begin to relax. Maybe both opals merged into one creature, they conjecture. As Christmas Eve dinner goes by without a hitch, they relax more and more. Until Tanj, hearing a change in the pitch of the dogs’ howling, runs out of the room, followed by the others and Fiskarson, the lead dog sledder.

They find Dutchess, a big black husky, clawing at the floor, clearly in terror and agony. Worse, they found a burrow in her belly, as if something had gone inside her with a minimum of blood. Fiskerson, weeping, holds his dying dog, and then shoves her away in revulsion as he feels something move under the skin. The dog’s carcass is sprayed with the extinguishers, and all is still…

...until a huge black blob, roughly rat-shaped by the size of a large cat, bursts from Duchess’ stomach in a shower of gore!

Horrified, the investigators try to subdue the creature with their extinguishers. They have limited success, until the creature, trying to attack Buffington, is captured in a metal bucket. They quickly blast into the bucket with multiple fire extinguishers, subduing it, and then consigning it to the ocean floor, praying that the cold down there will be enough. A radio message from the Wilhelmina confirms that the other expeditions are safe as well. Captain Vredenburgh verifies that they’re safe, then wishes them a Merry Christmas, heading to his cabin.

In Dunedin, New Zealand, the press rampage begins. They do their best to stay away from the limelight, but there’s too much of it to avoid. Back in New York, it gets even worse, as the mayor of New York City leads them to parties and parades, and telegrams of congratulations from their various states and countries are received. They note with some sadness that Starkweather would’ve loved to have seen it.

Some months later, they sit down to talk about the future with Nicholas Roerich, Professor Moore, and Acacia Lexington. Grimly, it’s agreed that future expeditions, but more secretive ones, will be needed to try and establish some method of communicating with and assisting the Elder Things left alive. The Construct Tower must be repaired, and the Imprisoned God must not be allowed to get free. In the end, everyone can only agree that there are no endings to this story…

...only echoes.



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