The Folklorist


Introduction

The Folklorist ghosted through the sharp-rising streets and cobbled back alleys of Old Providence, where gravel and tar sank, seeking the aqueous channel of the river. As she walked, the ever-present wind of Main, Water, and Canal flowed over her, breathing stories of merchant days and smugglers, driving ash of Waterfires past into her nostrils. The tales of ancient New England lingered here, remnants of barbaric America before the birth of spangled stars and green-gowned liberty. Scribed into the columns of the Supreme Court, carved into the lower walkways alongside the canal, the stories grew, continued, haunted Old Providence, layered it in primal clothing of manifest destiny.

Lately, however, the stories had become layered themselves, filtered. The Folklorist could sense forgetfulness permeating the lane-dwellers, hill-scrabblers, new folk of down-up town. She heard fewer whispers of legend, saw ancient wisdom flaunted -- why would a tourist drink from the Athenaeum fountain, unless he knew that it would ensure his permanent return to the city? Something -- modernity, or maybe an element more sinister -- now sucked at Old Providence, tried to pry away its protective layers of antiquity, to leave instead shadows...

Atop the hill of the East Side, The Folklorist visited a guardian, baleful watchman of the ivory tower. On the campus of Brown University, she walked between the modern hulk of Salomon Hall and the aging dignity of Sayles Hall, down toward Lincoln Field. She ranged past the idyllic garden scene with its pink and white flowers dancing every-which in the wind, trod to where the surveyor perched, coast-viewer: Marcus Aurelius sat astride his charger, pedestaled where he could watch the east, his right arm extended hand open in authoritarian gesture of peace.

Location: Marcus Aurelius

Long ago enchanted by those who knew of such things and cared, Aurelius now served as gauge and thermometer for the metaphysical influences affecting Old Providence. As The Folklorist approached, she noticed something different: he had drawn his sword. Something was wrong on the East Side...

Leaving the flaring nostrils and stomp of the charger, the whistling blade of the guardian behind her, The Folklorist plodded down to the Medical Research Lab. There the cunning scientists had unwittingly crafted a powerful scrying tool, the whispering arch which giggling undergraduate girls used to pass gossip on weekend nights.

Location: Whispering Arch

But she knew how to listen and began testing the various grooves of the arch, waiting for some indication of the trouble. It came soon enough, whispers of broken lights, darkness by Andrews Hall, cloaked men chanting to some unseen terror, cult reaching for tales older than the city itself, evil that should not be faced at night. The Folklorist flinched away and sought the down-bent hill. She needed to sleep first...

Meditation

Sleep came slowly to The Folklorist after she returned home from her excursion to the East Side and Brown University. For what seemed like a number of hours, she was continually disturbed at random intervals by whispers, by screams, by the outcries of human throats echoing around her. No sense of intelligible communication, no linguistic regularity marked these cacophonous annoyances, nor did any investigations yield a source for even the loudest intrusion, a soul-wrenching scream that left a cold sweat upon her neck and arms. It felt as if the arch still whispered its secrets to her, but no longer had anything useful to say, just empty noise.

The Morning Paper

Pembroke Seal

The Folklorist woke up and decided to investigate the hints of dark ritual that the whispering arch had given her. Venturing up to Andrews Hall and the Pembroke College campus, she soon came upon the source of Aurelius' discomfort. Anachronistic amidst the splendor of hotel Andrews, a simplistic bench innocuously rested before Miller Hall, a large stone wheel knocked onto its side atop some supports. This morning, however, a dreadful odor poured up from the center of the bench, so that the Folklorist could not boldly approach closer than five feet. Looking around, she noticed that the lights in the area had been broken, the pole-topping lamps extinguished. Moreover, a sudden wilting had struck the grass around the bench, as if some heavy draping weight had been plopped onto the bench-top, overhanging and killing with its weight. Still, one could only learn so much from a ritual's remains...

Location: The Stone Wheel Of Andrews

She needed more information. The Folklorist came to the Pembroke College Seal, to which students had long ascribed a curse of impregnation.

Location: Near The Pembroke Seal

In truth, she knew, the seal contained an enchantment that if used properly could gift the inquiring mind with knowledge, could impregnate a person with potentially useful ideas and thoughts. She drew arcane symbols in the air and sought for the secret in stone.

Location: The Pembroke Seal

With a jolt, The Folklorist was snapped away from her tunnel-flying thoughts, her deep-reaching searches into the circumstances surrounding the evil done yesterday at Andrews. Her mind spun, centered on -- darkness, no vandals -- vandals had done the deed at Andrews and she was overworked, had imagined... what? Cloaked men? She felt confused, strangely empty after finding her day's pursuit to have been naught but imagination. Her steps turned homeward, doubts lingering only in the still-clear nauseous contamination wafting toward her nostrils on the wind, in the cloudy darkness that tugged at her brain-corners.

Meditation

The Folklorist was dreaming. She floated in light; brilliantly soft, achingly clear light that held her as perfectly and gently as a thousand-watt blanket. Below her, the light had lines, edges, a pair of concentric rings distinguishable as a subtly sharper gold amidst the full purity of white. Outlines -- humanoid in form, swaying slowly, arms open to her -- gathered about the rings below her, called to her to join their blissful state. She could not. She realized suddenly that patches of hideous darkness, palpably terrifying and confining, pushed at her from all around. Spheres of night extended dark tendrils, repelling rays of black that kept her away. She needed to destroy them. But even as she attempted to batter them with her own luminescence, they expanded, throbbed larger, grabbed with painful knobs, tried to erase her light.

The Folklorist split the air with her own scream, this one definitely no delusion, nor an imagined remnant of the whispering arch. As her voice rebounded into the night, she thought an echoing titter answered her, the idiotic scattered notes of some child with a tin whistle.

The Morning Paper

King House

Today, following up on a suggestion made some time ago by a friend, The Folklorist took a trip to King House, where it was said that the legends of Old Providence ran deep. It was further intriguing that this was the home of the only officially recognized Brown University fraternity not on the Greek Council or Wriston Quad.

Location: King House

Return Of Memories

Awaking from an agonizing dream-filled sleep, the Folklorist received a terrible shock. On the calendar on the wall above her desk that governed her life, an appointment sat glaring from yesterday evening. She was supposed to have met Samantha Jonnet, the curator of the Annmary Brown Collection of the John Hay Library. The collection had long been housed in the famed Annmary Brown Memorial building over by Wayland Arch, and had a history of bizarre occult disturbances.

She remembered.

Samantha had called her to say that someone was defacing paintings, some FORCE was tampering with the collection. How could she have forgotten? As she read through the morning paper, the Folklorist suddenly stopped, shrieked, and collapsed onto the floor, her mind suddenly flooding with memories and images, invasions whose details came flying back to her.

When she finally pulled herself together, the Folklorist went first to the Annmary Brown Memorial in order to face the unthinkable.

Location: Annmary Brown Memorial

Location: Scene Of The Crime, Annmary Brown Memorial

After a space of silence she moved on to the Hay Library. Piping, drums, a message, an idiot god in the dark. She had an idea now. She would consult the Necronomicon.

Meditation

A single image leaves itself imprinted in your mind when you awake this morning:

An antique church, remnant of the Gothic tradition but covered with the dust and shadow of New England's dark occult roots. It seems larger than a church ought to be, somehow stretched, expanding, a boil ready to burst forth horror upon humankind. A tower of shimmering darkness rises from its back, a bell tower with a steeple spiked on top. The windows of the bell-top are all shuttered, closed, seemed stuffed and blocked. Darkness clings, clumps around the tower, tangibly and impenetrably Just beneath the steeple you cannot see anything, the dark is deeper than the star-path void of space, it reaches out to suck the light from your eyes. But deep within, more horrible than anything, a single glint lurks, eye-shine of a cat in the moonlight.

The Morning Paper

Reflection And Discovery

The Folklorist spent much of the day in reflection down by the canal. Old Providence had power, and much of it was focused in the odd bits of sculpture down here -- circular portals, gateways, the magical Waterfire cauldrons, memorials rising into the sky. Something had been done to her, and seeing Samantha dead had brought memories tumbling back to her en mass. The cult at the Andrews Circle Bench was a bunch of idiot men, no more, fools who were blindly following something greater than themselves, more terrible, and ultimately beyond their comprehension. When she had used the Pembroke Seal to discover the origins of their ritual something had attacked her, knocked out her memory, stolen the time of her meeting with Samantha.

She remembered darkness, piping, the feel of shadow watching her, seeking to blind her, eliminate light. The light of her knowledge, the light of the sun was hateful to this creature. But she needed to know more about what it was.

Old stories spoke of the blind god Azathoth and his horrible piping minions, spinning in the chaos at the center of the universe. She prayed that whatever the black-cloaks were worshipping was not from a similar abysmal gulf between the stars. She walked to the Hay Library and examined the Necronomicon, dread source of occult wisdom, forbidden text of things that men should not touch.

What she found there terrified her, but made her more resolved than ever to stop the horror haunting Old Providence.

Meditation

You are sleepwalking. You are sure of it. There are cords tied about your ankles-- you put them there in order to keep yourself from doing this, you hoped they would either moor you or force your wakefulness in their undoing. A downhill grade carries you past hulking shadows of antique civilization, flowing irrigation channel, life-source of the crops and cattle-stock. You meander past old squares, squat vaults and city-structures, heading for a church of all things. You shuffle up to a raised plateau surrounded by a chain-link fence and a border-guard of streetlights. You prepare to step onto the fence when the scene it encloses vanishes, mutates into the cold, depthless void of the outer stars, the heat-draining chaotic origin of all madness. You can sense something reach out for you.

You awake shivering on the floor of your room, the dream still burned deep into your eyes, cords tied at your ankles keeping your legs tight to the bedposts.

The Morning Paper

Phantom Stranger

The Folklorist arose from her afternoon spent in preparation and rest to visit her old friend. In the gardens behind Rochambeau House, students -- late-night trysting couples, French Department concentrators who felt the need to type at moldy desks late into the evening, passersby -- had reported sightings of a phantom. While the rumors had given this apparition various forms and meanings, she knew it to be a man, a lonely, gruesomely murdered man who simply wanted company now, a chance here and there to tell of his life. As she proceeded into the natural, woodsy portions of the deep gardens, a crunching sound of movement announced the arrival of her inching, crippled, non-corporeal host.

Location: Rochambeau Gardens

"Tell me what you remember of your DEATH, ghost of the garden, victim of night's black will. Let me know it."

With a shriek the flopping spirit started to bash its already ruined figure against the surrounding rocks and trees, rolled in the dirty grass, dew-sopping. Slowly mumbling incoherencies took on form, and then a speech bubbled forth, broken and gurgle-glutted, murmur-filled declamation:

"Utterly unbearable foetor... the unseen heights... air trembled... vibration as of flapping wings... great spreading blur of denser blackness against the inky sky... formless cloud of smoke... Nyarlathotep's mask! I can see... monstrous sense that is not sight -- light is dark and dark is light... monstrous odour... Iä... ngai... ygg... I see it coming here, hell-wind, titan blue-black wing, Azathoth save me! The three-lobed burning eye!"

The Folklorist bid her tortured friend good-bye, returned home determined to end the nightmares.

H.C.A.v.N.

The Folklorist spent the day in her personal library, researching, remembering, preparing. From what she had read in the Necronomicon, she thought it prudent to consult an old stand-by from her collection:

"Chapter xxix. Of the Characters and Seals of spirits.

We must now speak of the Characters and Seals of spirits. Characters therefore are nothing else than certain unknowable letters and writings, preserving the secrets of the Gods, and names of spirits from the use and reading of prophane men, which the Ancients called Hyeroglyphicall, or sacred letters, because devoted to the secrets of the Gods only. For they did account it unlawfull to write the mysteries of the God with those Characters with which profane and vulgar things were wrote. Whence Porphyry saith, that the Ancients were willing to conceal God, and divine vertues by sensible figures, and by those things which were visible, yet signifying invisible things, as being willing to deliver great mysteries in sacred letters, and explain them in certain Symbolical figures ...

"Chapter xxxii. How good spirits may be called up by us, and how evil spirits may be overcome by us.

... But evil spirits are overcome by us through the assistance of the good, especially when the petitioner is very pious and devout, and sings forth sacred words, and a horrible speech, as by conjuring the Divine power by the venerable names, and signs of supernaturall powers, by miracles, by Sacraments, by sacred mysteries, and such like; which conjurations, or adjurations, in as much as they are done by the name and power of religion, and Divine vertue, those evil spirits are afraid of."

The Folklorist rose. She would need some guidance and assistance.

The Morning Paper

Hunting Trip

The Folklorist began to move, assembling her arsenal for the confrontation she knew to be imminent. She hunted a creature from beyond this world, likely from unplumbed depths of the cosmos, a servant of the hideously gibbering demon Azathoth from the outer rim of reality. All she had seen told her that a dark shape-shifter, the demonic messenger Nyarlathotep, had somehow managed to take root and thrive amidst the darkness of Old Providence. Exactly what the essence of his power was, exactly what form of devilish monstrosity he was, she did not know -- or care. He must be banished again to infernal realms out of the reach of grasping, prying, corrupted humans. She knew his ways and was learning how to destroy him.

Her research told her that St. John's Catholic Church on Atwells Avenue had been the original home of this accursed minion of chaos, brooder of the star-paths. She walked to St. Joseph's Church of Hope Street, and inquired of the craggy, bent pastor if he recalled any stories of Father O'Malley from the days of St. John's, the paling pastor repeated whispers of storms, of Father Merluzzo from Spirito Santo facing the roiling odors and bat-propelled blackness of a demon during a terrific storm. Light had been the key.

In the First Baptist Meeting House down the hill, records of Dr. Drowne's sermons against a certain Starry Wisdom sect connected all too well. Blood he said, blood and the pulsing currents of the mind fed this creature. The screams of her tortured friend, his eaten skull, these flashed back at her.

She tracked down charms of warding on Brown University's campus. After a prayer at the secret altar in Marston Hall, wisdom from the eminent Prof. R. Mathiesen bolstered her courage. Finally at St. Stephen's Church she met the Sextan in secret, learning from him both a former lair and the means to dispel the creature.

Location: St. Stephen's Church

Armed with a flashlight, knowledge, and ancient warding signs, including the famed Elder sign which would banish all foes of the deeper star-rings, she proceeded to follow the lairing places of this Haunter, accursed mask of Nyarlathotep.

Finale

The Folklorist stalked downhill from St. Stephen's Church on George Street, following memories of a workman's dark-burned fall in Carrie Tower. The man's end had sounded far too much like the Sextan's story she now knew. IT had lived there, once, but within a moment of seeing the clock-tower again she knew it to have gone...

Her memories under her control for once, she swiftly proceeded back to the Rochambeau Gardens, feeling that she had missed a clue. As she looked on her apparition's mound, she wondered how she could have missed that blood-red vine before. It was so obvious. No pulsing, veinous parasite of that type could have sprouted naturally even from the most guilt-ridden of Puritan soils. A force, a taint that exceeded the lawless domain of Rogues' Island had caused its germination. But the vine-maker had moved on...

Crossing back toward the Brown University campus two things caught her attention. First, words that had no business coming from human voice-boxes slowly rose in volume from a dark house by the First Church of Christ Scientist.

“Ec haifla ouhan. Ae covnet ie ec haifla ouhan soo weihaf ca moulobnut aec de ulne tem ouvrein gobav ie hessna ah cirrof allet ec haifla aldac oyona mebe...”

Second, snaking around the base of that very house twisted a twin brother of the Rochambeau vine, corpse-fed glutton of evil.

“Ae. Ae covn, comet ie ec haiflaec ouhan soo weihaf -- sool weihaf... sool wehf -- Ae comet ye haiflec ouhan sool wehf ca... ka... qua. Mouwob nu ii deruh... ii deruh ulnetem... ruh ulne tom ouvrey...”

Then suddenly it seemed to her that for all their gibberish and unnatural linguistics, she had heard those words before. Another repetition of the dread syllables and she was instantly sure.

Rushing back to Pembroke College’s old campus, she crossed the fell Seal and halted, listening. Then on the wind the hideous flitting of pipes tickled her ears, and a thicker, inhuman echo of the dire-words pressed into her mind. “Gobav ye shessna ah cirrow alleth haiflec aldokh oyona m’be ah ouhan souw. Hhhhhh...” Following their source, she entered Alumnae Hall and proceeded to the utmost summits of that dust-choked fortress, titters of vermin drawing her on, maddening piping dredging up from her mind the memories of antideluvian horrors lingering far beyond their time.

Location: Alumnae Hall Attic

There in a deep attic she drew her flashlight ­ modern technology’s equivalent to the burning Seraphim sword. A single window let a beam of golden sunlight, pure and powerful, burst through the too-thick darkness, the reek of a thousand years mildewy rot. Standing in the middle of the sanity-preserving ray, she began with dark charcoal and white chalk to inscribe seals of power: Sun, moon, solar planets ringed border-wardens, she called upon them and their governing angels. She cried out to blood, to Samatha’s blood, to the priests of St. Stephen’s, to Patrick Regan and the children taken for slaughter down by St. John’s.

As her voice gained in volume, the dark rumblings, oozing gushes of sound from the blackness of the attic began to condense, flow toward her. Tittering shrieks mingled with sizzling burns as a bulk of deeper smoky shadow flowed out of a doorway before her, spread creaking chitinous wings to span the room’s distance. She turned the flashlight on it and began to inscribe the Elder Sign over and over on the inky, convulsing form of Nyarlathotep’s mask, Azathoth’s supplicant minion of the Outer chaos. It writhed in agony but came on, hurt and stung by her beam but not yet bound or banished.

As The Folklorist watched, the light and dark outside her protective sun-circle changed, switched. Suddenly she saw ins tunning clarity the barrel-mass, bat-winged horror from beyond that sought entry into her warding. The beam of her flashlight became a distasteful darkness playing about its features, and into her own burned the glare of a three-lobed eye. The Folklorist screamed in terror, and chanted louder. She invoked ancient gods from their star-splashed realms of dream, she cried out to the bones littering unknown Kadath, cried out to dolphin riders lapping at a cliff-house in Kingsport. She screamed of every light-power and sun deity she had even encountered, bellowed:

“As I know your name Nyarlathotep, as I know the light of the Elder One’s stars, as I know of your origin in the deceitful non-light of the void, I hereby forbid you presence on this earthly sphere. You shall never be ascendent for as long as we live in the light!”

Then as the baleful words of the dark-worshippers climaxed in her ears, the Haunter before her bellowed forth its strong reply:

“Ae comet ye haiflec ouhan sool wehf qua mouwob nu i deruh ulne tom ouvrey gobav, ye shessna ah cirrow alleth haiflec aldokh oyona m’be ah ouhan souw.”

A single tentacle of living darkness crossed the barrier of sunlight and reached for her, The Folklorist felt the world invert and she knew no more.