Let's Play: Cragne Manor

So my hunch actually had a kernel of validity in that I guessed the style was closer to Jenni than Ryan, and that makes sense now; couples need to kinda share the same interests and head-space and sense of humor (writing style?) to get along!

(I’m sorry if I ever spoke to you (Chris) in the Slack and forgot about it - I have the worst recall of quick acquaintances due to a customer service job where I meet, empathize with, and then promptly forget and start over again with about 30-40 random people per day, and then also moderate here where I sometimes completely disremember who people are between their real name and their forum handle and five Chrises, four Jasons, six Mikes, three Matts, and a partridge in a pear tree…)

I hadn’t played through the room and experienced it fully in this LP, but I’d heard “boneless horse” and was prepared for that, and people had mentioned “BRNNNNNRRRNNN” and that was a complete surprise and imagery/sound detail that sticks in the mind. The cleverness of a car-revving crossed with horse-panic sounds, also supplemented by the fact that I was also recently terrified by horse-sounds in the movie NOPE and had a frame of reference really made this work.

I also am a fan of the “kitchen sink gonzo” style which does recall Douglas Adams and pulp novelists like Lovecraft, and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of visceral horror and humor that also brings to mind Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead, which totally works for this project.


Oh, interesting! This seems like a really challenging thing to manage, since in this case the light-source-removal was permanent – though since you can only get into the hatch once you’ve successfully used the flashlight, getting rid of it is OK. Still, I can only imagine the headache it was for Ryan and Jenni to make sure this kind of stuff didn’t lead to unwinnable situations (I’m also worried about my rusty screwdriver, since I was very glad to get that piece of the Standard Adventurer’s Kit relatively early!)

I’m figuring one of her cover identities was a typesetter, given her very specific knowledge-base here!

Yeah, I was trying to figure that out for purposes of mapping – since the exit is north, and there’s no due-south exit from the town square, my guess is that that’s the connection point, and the office is one of the many unnamed buildings. It could also be the heretofore-unmentioned back room to the Estate Agent’s Office where we met the loquacious Bethany.

Oh, I didn’t recognize those references at all, and kinda thought they might be made up! But yes, between that and the early provenance of the Choose Your Own Adventure book, something oddly timey-wimey appears to be up with Anchorhead… I’m curious if that’ll be followed up on in other rooms, or is just something @Grueslayer ran with?

(Incidentally, I’m tagging him here since @StJohnLimbo made the good suggestion in a PM that since he’s a forum member he might be interested in the conversation here!)

Ha, now I’m half-expecting that I’ll open to the door to the manor only to see all the Cragnes yelling “surprise!” under a “Happy 4,000th Birthday” banner.

Yay, I’m glad you’re enjoying the thread! I feel like I haven’t been sufficiently appreciative of the work you and Ryan did making Cragne Manor happen, but as I keep going deeper, I keep being more and more impressed, and hopefully it’s clear I’m really enjoying myself. So thank you very much – including for Bethany, who’s one of my favorite characters so far (I’ve convinced myself that she and Christabell are part of the same, very nerdy, LARP troupe).

Oh my gosh, and with this post the thread justifies its existence!

I really appreciate this look at the design goals that led to this room, and I have to say, I think you achieved all of them – at the close of the whole bonkers carnival-ride that is the meatpacking plant bathroom, I was left thinking to myself “yeah, this all makes a lot of sense.” And while it’s true the verbosity level is pretty high, especially given the room’s placement in an already-gigantic game, I have to say for me that was a (good) part of the joke – it just keeps going, and going, and going, and going… I am a fan of shaggy-dog stories, though.

(Similarly, though it’s technically a bug I guess, X VOID → You can’t see any such thing is a good joke too!)

Anyway congrats on what’s clearly an epochal triumph in the annals of IF!

Indeed, that was an inspired hunch!


Before you entirely melt, let me reiterate that I’m collecting Cragne source code on my web site: Cragne Manor: The Source Collection

This is optional and opt-in, but you want to be included, please email me your Inform source code. (The story.ni file from your project.) Thanks.


The side effect of this you’ve discovered - you can’t use one of eight knives and other sharp things in your inventory to cut a string, you’ve got to find the specific sharp thing in the room that it wants. It kind of intentionally turns your inventory into a horror-show of itself! I was always curious how much stuff Naomi could be wearing by the end, and would she look like the kid in A Christmas Story.


(ok I accidentally said this like a dick but I consider the horse bathroom & all the aldermen to be crit path even if you can opt out of 'em with spoilers

most of the rooms are crit path & I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an epic setpiece room on the critical path in Cragne, it’s sure not the only one)


About that

If you’re trying to lower expectations on this thing, I can assure you you’re accomplishing completely the opposite! Speaking personally, I’d love a look behind the curtain – and I think I mentioned I’m considering doing a bonus update or updates at the end of the thread looking at publicly-available source text? – so I’m definitely hoping you’re able to wrangle it together!

Yeah, I mean I’m assuming I’m not going to get to the end and all the Cragne relatives’ll be like lol, why did you crawl into graves and sewers trying to figure out who we are in the Variegated Court, that’s just Backwater’s version of Model UN.

OMG I think now I need to add another bonus update where I try to win the thing with minimal turncount!

Yeah, I think that’s a good instinct – Daniel’s bridge was about the maximum I think I’d want as a hard gate, and that was clearly set up as a major dividing point between the first “act” of the game and the second. I will say, I think one thing that made your room work as well as it did is that it’s not actually that hard. Like, there’s a lot to do – and obviously my first time in I panicked and died – but it’s all pretty well-clued and there’s no super esoteric guess-the-verb stuff. Admittedly I did make it harder on myself by forgetting about the medicine cabinet, which is a risk of trying to cram so much stuff into a single(ish) location, but still, I always felt like I was making progress.

(Incidentally, my theory for how you win IF Comp is to make a big, well-written game with lots of fairly-easy puzzles. Just saying in case you ever decide to write a second thing, though honestly this one-and-done angle you’re currently playing is pretty awesome)


Chapter the Eleventh: Housebreaking

When last we left Nitocris, she was on the verge of finally reaching Cragne Manor… only to fall into a world of filth, terror, and too much TV. Having escaped the Trump White House [rim shot], we did find a key that maybe we actually needed to get into the Manor, so perhaps that side-jaunt saved us from an anticlimax?

Spoiler: yes it did, we’re going to the big house this time.

We trolley back to the Manor environs, then go north from the Front Walk:

Mudroom (Matt Weiner)
The porch is a mudroom, a place for taking off coats and muddy shoes. The marble front wall seems like a sheer cliff face, the porch like a flimsy shelter built onto it. The front door leads inside to the north.

In one corner of the porch a strangely shaped hook is fastened to the wall. A calfskin coat hangs beside it.

In the other corner of the porch, a teapot sits on a small wooden table.

A slightly muddy welcome mat sticks out partway from under the front door.

Against the front wall are a pair of blue cloth slippers and a single brown leather boot.

Oh, this mudroom is also by Matt Weiner, so it’s also probably technically part of the same room as the admittedly rather bare-bones Front Walk. This seems more interesting. First things first:

>x door
The front door is made of heavy dark wood with bronze bands across it. The enormous lock plate is also bronze. Bronze numbers reading 31 are screwed into the door, though surely no one could see them from the road.

>x numbers
(the bronze numbers)
Bronze numbers reading 31, weathered green, and almost certainly useless if their purpose is to tell the emergency services that they’re at the right house.

I am pretty sure the Cragnes aren’t the type to call 911 when something goes wrong on the premises.

>x lock plate
It looks like the sort of old-fashioned keyhole that you could poke a key out of from the other side. If there were a key in it, which there doesn’t seem to be.

I like the little head-fake there, but we’re pretty sure we’ve got the goods:

>unlock door with large brass key
You unlock the front door.

My friends… it’s update number eleven, and we are in. But first, we must faff about with scenery.

>x wall
Gray Barre marble, smooth and cold.

>touch it
The manor’s marble wall is smooth and cool to the touch.

Fancy but not too fancy – Barre is in Vermont, probably not too far away. Nitocris’s taste runs more to fine Egyptian porphyry.

>x calfskin
A thigh-length belted calfskin coat, clean as if it’s never been outside.

>take it

>wear it
You put on the calfskin coat.

I’m guessing there are some tanners and leatherworkers in town to take advantage of the offal from the meatpacking plant.

>x hook
(the hooks)
A black metal hook protrudes from the wall, twisting in strange ways, like the outline of the human form projected through some alien dimension. A calfskin coat hangs beside it.

The floor below the hooks is lost in an unusually deep black shadow.


x shadow
It is no mere shadow on the floor, but a crumpled cloak, of a black so black that its folds cannot be seen.

…OK yes, this appears to be the cloak of darkness, the incredibly-random minigame that’s somehow become the Hello World of IF languages!

(Seriously, it bugs me how the “puzzle” in Cloak of Darkness makes no real sense. How did this become such a thing???)

>take cloak
Taking the cloak reveals a leather boot, mate to the first one.

The cloak tingles strangely in your hands.

Well, I know what to do about that!

>wear it
You seem to be pulling on darkness itself. Where the cloak touches your body, both disappear. The cowl settles over your head, and with it come darkness… numbness… and then nothing at all.

*** You have been lost to the darkness ***

…maybe not. It might be nice to just hang on to this for later, but when we look around:

The cloak clouds your mind so, you can think of nothing else while you hold it.

Your hands begin to feel numb where they touch the cloak.

Sure seems like we’re on a timer here, so let’s take the obvious path:

>put cloak on hook
(the hooks)
You put the black cloak on the hooks.

Your senses return to normal.

We appear to have shaken the curse.

Let’s see, what else is around?

>x pot
It’s a silver teapot tarnished brown on the spout and sides. Through the tarnish you can read the engraving, “Jane Cragne, RMS Queen Mary, 2 Oct 1942.”

I’ve actually been on the Queen Mary a couple times – randomly, it’s now a floating hotel off the Long Beach marina. It’s nice, albeit a bit gauche for my tastes.

One bit of history I remember from those trips is that it served as a troop carrier during World War II; on one of those voyages, it accidentally collided with a much-smaller escort vessel leading to the loss of over 200 lives on, wait for it, October 2nd 1942.

Well, this seems like a significant pot:

>take pot

[This is the only item you need to take from this room or the front walk, and the only other thing you need to do here is unlock the door with the key, when you have it. But there are other things here you can explore, if you like.]

Umm, OK! That’s a slightly obtrusive approach to things, but nice to know we’re done here. I guess we’ll need a teapot later (unless there’s some current puzzle we need it for, though I can’t think of any. Possibly we can distract the barman with the possibility of tea, and thereby purloin the whetstone? We’ll test that later but it’s not worth running back to the village to check).

We might as well continue to mess around, both with the pot and the remaining stuff (primarily footwear).

>open pot
There’s nothing inside it but a faint brown mark.

>x brown mark
A faint brown mark at the bottom of the teapot. From tea, no doubt.

No doubt.

>x table
The table is thigh-high, as if sized for a child’s tea party, but its deep brown wood is so finely carpentered that the legs and tabletop seem carved from one piece. There is a round brown tea stain on it, but no cups or saucers.

>look under mat
You find nothing of interest.

>take mat
There’s no need to stuff a muddy welcome mat into your pockets.

Come on, if we let that stop us, would we be toting around (checks inventory) an assortment of 80-odd random items?

Checking inventory leads to one interesting discovery – this is appended at the end:

You are also wearing a pair of extremely muddy clogs.

I guess this is like those goggles!

>x clogs
You picked these clogs as sensible walking shoes, but you didn’t count on it being
this wet. They’re caked in mud almost all the way to your ankle.

> remove them
It might be polite to take off your outside shoes, but you’re not going to go into the
Manor barefoot. Not in strange shoes, either.

This doesn’t seem especially hygienic.

>x slippers
A lightly scuffed pair of indoor slippers.

>wear slippers
(first taking the pair of blue cloth slippers)
You don’t want to change into strange slippers.

That’s too bad. What about the boots?

>x first boot
One leather boot with a muddy sole.

>x boot
(the mate of the first leather boot)
A brown leather boot like the first, but without the mud. You think you glimpse something behind its pulled-out tongue.

>look in mate
You discover a slip of paper inside the boot.

>x slip
It says “Inspected by Number 8.”

That’s pretty underwhelming.

>wear boot
(the mate of the first leather boot)
(first taking the mate of the first leather boot)
This is someone else’s boot, and it doesn’t even look like it’ll fit you.

So dirty muddy clogs it is. Kinda gross, but I’m guessing the Cragnes aren’t punctilious about cleanliness.

I think we’ve exhausted the limited possibilities posed by this mudroom, so let’s take that fateful step…

>open door
You open the front door.


Foyer (Greg Frost)
Standing in the narrow entry hall is like being at the mouth of a cave. The only light comes in through tall windows on either side of the door and a half-round window above. All of the furniture has been removed from the foyer, leaving tracks in the heavy dust. This house must have been abandoned for years. It’s empty, and silent, and cold.

“Peter!” you shout. There’s no reply. Not even an echo comes back to you.

Of course he’s not here. You expected that; he wouldn’t have locked you out. But whatever happened to him, this house is at the dark heart of it.

Morning light slants across the floor. Hallways lead west and east into other parts of the house. A doorway leads north; the front door is to the south.

Oh hey, Greg Frost (@okushimo)! He helps organize the Seattle IF Meetup, which I’ve sat in on a couple times. I’d thought he hadn’t released any other games, but a quick look at IFDB shows he recently put out a game that was meant to be part of that Planescape: Torment Advent Calendar project that fell through.

(Also, I check inventory and confirm that the clogs vanished before we came in, so we don’t need to add “dragging mud through the family digs” to the list of Nitocris’s crimes)

Let’s check out that interesting ray of light:

>x light
(the waterproof flashlight (smelling faintly of mildew))
A small flashlight, with a rubber ring where it screws together to keep the water out-though some oily substance coats the inside.

Inside the flashlight is a clump of glowing vegetation.

Oh, that’s an annoying disambiguation issue, but also it’s nice since I thought that had broken!

(Turns out we can’t actually check out the light anyway).

>x floor
Where the dust has been cleared, you can see that the hardwood’s in pretty bad shape. There are discolored patches under the windows where the sun has bleached out the wood. There are also lots of scratches around the front door - deep ones. The owner must have had a big dog.

That little “deep ones” slid in at the end of the sentence there is nicely done.

>x dust
Dust covers most surfaces in the foyer. Tracks on the floor show where people have been more recently; the dust is deeper along the walls. Near the west wall there is a dark line.

>x line
(the broken silver amulet)
There is a small object under the dust. You lean over to look at it, trying not to sneeze. It’s a tarnished silver pendant, about the size of your thumb, on a leather cord. It must have been dropped behind some piece of furniture and forgotten.

>take it
You take the pendant and sneeze as dust gets in your face. The charm is a silver hand, tarnished and dented. You hold the pendant at arm’s length and shake the dust off.

>x it
It’s a tarnished silver pendant, about the size of your thumb, on a leather cord. The pendant is shaped like an open hand. It’s been damaged - a deep groove, like a chisel mark, cuts across the palm, nearly breaking the pendant in half.

Huh, interesting – not sure we’ve got an immediate use for this but I’m sure it’ll be, er, handy. The groove across the palm is maybe reminiscent of Y’Golonac, who’s a post-Lovecraftian Great Old One dedicated to edgy depravity, and shows up as a naked obese man with giant maws in his hands. I’m hoping I’m wrong about that!

>wear pendant
You can’t wear that!

Ah well, our quest to wear every possible accessory and article of clothing is momentarily stymied.

Wonder if there’s anything else hiding on the floor?

>dust dust
You rub the dust.

OK I confess, I just wanted to type that in.

What else?

>x windows
Two tall, rectangular windows are set into the wall on either side of the front door. They look like they were added later. Maybe the new owner thought the foyer needed more light.

The morning sun casts long shadows across the grounds.

Oh yeah, there was a mention of morning light, wasn’t there? …it was evening when we were mucking around in the back garden, meaning I guess we spent the night in the sewers, so that’s awesome.

>x half-round
The half-round window (fanlight?) above the front door has thick, wavy glass. Morning light slants across the floor.

I motivelessly try to mess around with the windows, eventually leading to this:

>break it
Why would you want to break the window? Besides, it’s too high to reach.

That is a fair point, and the coffee indicates we’re done here, so let’s move on (though I take the precaution of first closing and opening the front door to confirm we’re not locked in). I think let’s try to explore the rooms as we go rather than hallways first, so that means going through the north door:


Landing at the Bottom of Stairs (Mark Sample)
This is a dark alcove with a narrow stairway rising into the gloom upstairs. The landing feels unwanted, neglected, as if its sole purpose were to get you somewhere else more important. You know that feeling well. You touch your wedding ring in an offhand way.

Shadows lurch over a doorway to the south. Opposite those shadows lies another doorway, in even darker shadows. What little light there is seeps in from a small elliptical window high on the wall. A ramshackle bookshelf squats under the window like a sunken chest on a murky seafloor.

Another author I know a tiny bit (he’s on the forum: @samplereality) – I’ve played Mark’s Babyface, a horror game that has a scare for the ages (if you’ve played it, you know exactly what I mean). I also picked his prize when my first game placed relatively well in the 2020 IF Comp, which involved him inflicting said game on his students in a digital studies class – poor them!

Anyway, we touch our what now?

>x ring
You remember the day you swore to be Peter’s, forever. You look down at the gold band and study its intricate woven inlay that almost looks like–No, that can’t be.

Maybe it’s the dim thanatopic light writhing through the elliptical window overhead, but something seems different about the ring. You feel like you’re looking at its woven pattern for the first time. It reminds of you of chains, gates. Cages.

That’s kind of a dark view of marriage, Nitocris!

>turn it
Strange, the wedding band usually slides right off, but something about this house seems to have tightened the ring around your finger. Constricting, that’s the word that comes to mind.

…is everything OK with you, Mark?

As is our usual procedure, we start by examining all the nouns in the location description:

>x alcove
The hole in the floorboards is a moldering, rotting place. There’s something here. A thing.

Oh, there’s a hole in the floor? When it said there was a dark alcove where the stairs went up, that wasn’t what I was picturing – though honestly I’m having a bit of a hard time wrapping my head around this location, since a door between the foyer and the stairs up seems weird!

>x floor
The oak floorboards are worn bare and uneven, the way hardwood gets after water damage. You wonder whether the manor was ever flooded.

Well, we’re in a hilly if not mountainous region so I’m guessing “no”, or at least “not due to natural causes”.

>x thing
In the gloaming of the landing you can’t see clearly into the foul hole. You’re afraid you’ll have to pick up the thing to see what it is.

I always give authors points for the use of “gloaming” – actually, here’s a real anecdote about the band I was in in college (it wasn’t a jam band): when we were first working on some original songs, the lead guitarist brought in some lyrics that had started out as a poem which he thought could work as a song. They were about teenaged existential angst (what if there is no god, etc.) and he had the tentative title “The Gloaming”. We all gave him all sorts of a hard time for this – and wound up changing it to the oh-so-much-better “Silence Answers” – but the last laugh was on us because a year or two later Radiohead put out their Hail to the Thief album, featuring track 8, “The Gloaming”.

…I’m realizing that the made-up anecdotes about my college band are much better than the real ones.

Anyway, I was putting off something unpleasant:

>take it
You gasp when you touch the slippery, oozing thing. In your hand is a gelatinous piece of severed tentacle.

You think there might be something else in the alcove.

When you fish a gummy bit of tendril out from a hole in the floorboards, there’s only one thing to do:

>eat it
With some primeval impulse you cannot fathom, you decide to taste the awful raw tentacle. You bite down, imagining the tentacle is an exquisite ceviche.

It tastes like…


The original, cosmic power.

You feel the tentacle’s warmth spreading through your body. And suddenly it’s a torrent of thick, clotted blood roiling through your veins.

And your eyes. Oh, your eyes. They see everything. Through every layer of reality you see, through all of them. As if every dimension of space and time turned transparent. A yawning, moorless chasm lies beyond. And finally, you see, you sense–you know–just what it means to be a god.

Please press SPACE to continue.
And then your mind, your consciousness, your soul, whatever you call it, stretches inside out and covers you whole and thus everted you vanish into the maw of nothingness.

You are more than dead. You are no more.

*** The End ***

I swear, if you check the transcript, that was in fact my first idea for what to do with the tentacle – the only command between TAKE IT and EAT IT is me making a side-comment to say “oh, yummy”. This game is maybe getting to me, folks.

In a canon playthrough, this is actually probably the good ending for Nitocris – seems like she’s getting promoted to the big leagues – though for the completionists out there we’ll undo and keep going.

Anyway this was a super fun find, what else is in the alcove?

>x alcove
The hole in floorboards is a moldering rotting place. Now that you’ve pulled out the loathsome tentacle you see a thin leather volume lying in the hole.

Aww man, that’s much less interesting.

>x leather volume
The title of the thin volume appears in distinctive heavy gothic lettering. It’s called De Zeven Testamenten van de Krijsende Zeeworm. There’s a–what’s it called, the snake eating its own tail?–etched onto the cover. The book is bound in a wrinkled leathery material. You can’t quite place the feel of the material.

The back of the ancient book is defaced with a sticker bearing some sort of insignia that makes it clear the book belongs to the Backwater public library. The insignia looks vaguely Masonic. Two sallow crescent moons stand guard on either side of an icy, watchful eye. And the eye gazes down upon an open book.

This seems like it’s in Dutch? I’m going to embarrass myself even more thoroughly than when I flail around at Latin, but seems like we’re looking at the Seven Testaments (Google translate wants “wills” but I think the more literal translation is more fitting here) of the Criss-Cross Sea Worm – in theme with the ouroboros imagery.

>take it
The book is damp and clammy but you pick it up. It’s like shaking hands with a cadaver.

Nitocris would definitely know what that feels like.

>show leather volume to man
You hold the book out to the man, who nods and approaches, drifting slowly towards you. He reaches out a hand and touches the book, which becomes encrusted with frost as the man fades from sight. Finally, the man reappears and nods to you as the frost sublimates away, leaving only traces in the library insignia.

I’m not 100% sure of what this frost thing is all about, but it seems like every two books we show to the chill/spark/man, his form gets more distinct. Let’s see if that theory’s right when we find our next volume.

>read it
You crack open the thin volume–quite literally. The leather binding cracks as you open the book. It must be ancient. You can’t imagine why a public library would have such a book in circulation. Even more incomprehensible is why the book was hidden under the floorboards. Afraid to break the binding more, you close the book without reading it.

You’ve just moved to town and you want to destroy a possibly priceless library book? No thanks. Besides, with its slimey, cracked, leathery hide, the book frankly creeps you out.

Nitocris will face down eldritch terrors and blasphemous gods from beyond space and time, but she’s not dumb enough to piss off a librarian.

This was probably the most important thing here, but let’s check out the rest of what’s on offer:

>x window
A vague recollection of This Old House stirs in your mind. A cameo window, you think it’s called. Warped wooden muntins crisscross the horizontal ellipse, reminding you of sties on an infected eye. The glass is filthy, hazy. It’s not a window so much as a cheerless smear looking out to grounds of the Cragne Manor beyond.

You stand on your tippy toes, but you can’t quite see through the window from here.

>x bookcase
The bookshelf might once have been the centerpiece of the landing but now it’s tired and battered, leaning unsteadily to the right. The dark wood is heavily burled, triggering a dim recollection in the back of your mind. A few picture frames rest on top.

>>x frames
A grey mold blossoms across all the frames. Funny, you never saw mold growing on metal before. The photographs are torn out of every frame. Only the ragged edge of each photo remains, jagged white teeth encircling a vacant center.

>x wood
The wood is cruelly knotted. You inexplicably recall an episode of This Old House when Bob Vila explained that the burls so prized in Victorian furniture were often the result of horrible fungal infections.

This emphasis on This Old House – one of the first of the home improvement shows, airing originally on public TV – rings very true to me given the time period, since even as a kid who was as deeply uninterested in house stuff in the 80s as I am now, I was very aware of the show and remember watching a bunch of episodes (we didn’t have cable).

Also, more fungus, yay.

It sure seems like we’re being prompted to look out that window…

>stand on bookshelf
You slowly step onto the bookshelf. It creaks. It strains. But it appears to hold your weight.

For now.

Landing at the Bottom of Stairs (Mark Sample) (on the bookshelf)
You’re standing on the ramshackle bookshelf. What little light there is seeps in from a small elliptical window that’s now eye-level.

>x window
Panes of glass streaked with grime obscure most of the view. You catch a glimpse of movement in the shadows outside. Is it the white pines, so tall they resemble a fleet of square riggers bemasted with gigantic fascicles of needles? Or is it something else in the shadows? Whatever it is, it’s big.

>clean window
You rub the small elliptical window.

>look through window
You thought you saw something through the window, but now you’re not so sure. The towering trees sway in the wind, but there’s nothing there.

>open it
It isn’t something you can open.

>break it
You toy with the idea of breaking the elliptical window, but what would be the point?

Geez, why are all the authors being such buzzkills about my desire to break windows – maybe we’re worried about ventilation, or want (yet more) glass shards? Anyway we’re an adventurer game protagonist, chaos is what we do.

You shift your weight to step down from the bookshelf. A sharp crack breaks the silence of the alcove. The bookshelf collapses and you scramble away, slamming onto the old wooden floor.

You hear another crack but thankfully it’s not your own bones. A thick, putrid effluvium wafts up from the floor.

>x bookshelf
A heap of gnarled wood lies on the floor. It looks like your fall has broken through the rotten floorboards underneath the old shelf, revealing a small alcove. The smell of ancient sewage emanates from the alcove.

The stench is primordial. Like a sickly yellow vitality that’s been rotting since the dawn of time. It’s coming from below the broken bookshelf.

>look under bookshelf
The fallen bookshelf seems to have smashed through a floorboard underneath it, revealing a small alcove.

Oh, there’s the alcove! As with the gardener in the pool, we sequence-broke a little here (speedrunners take note!)

We’re good here, and obviously we want to finish the ground floor before trying others:

(Just over the character limit with this part of the update, so breaking it here)


As you walk through the doorway, you realize you’ve stumbled onto a dinner.

Dining Room (Roberto Colnaghi)
Three men are sitting at a long table, intently sipping coffee at the end of a formal dinner and conversing about serious-sounding matters. They don’t seem to be aware of your presence. You notice a calendar on the wall.

The man at the head of the table says: “I hope you enjoyed my hospitality. As you know, I’m interested in the new developments of science. Particularly, I think the acknowledgement of a fourth dimension, together with that of non-Euclidian geometry applied to space-time, is a big step towards the understanding of reality, on a cosmic scale.”

Roberto Colnaghi has one other credit on IFDB, a fun-sounding EctoComp entry that’s a tribute to OG horror-punk band The Misfits.

That calendar sure has prominent placement:

>x calendar
Today is the 14th of April, 1951. Wait, last time you checked, it was 1996!

Spooky! Not so much the time travel to the 50s, that’s fair enough, but everywhere else it’s been 1998, so whatever’s going on is much weirder than a simple portal back 50ish years.

One of the guests answers: “Well, Mr. Cragne, that’s true in general, but for most of our experience, space-time just follows regular, Euclidian geometry. It appreciably bends itself in a non-Euclidian way only in the presence of an enormous mass, or energy. Said condition is inconceivable for our everyday experience in this world…”

So far, so orthodox relativity – though I’m not sure talking in terms of “Euclidian geometry” is all that helpful a concept.

“…and yet, Dr. Einstein’s theory predicts this as something possible, Dr. Fermi. I know there is speculation about black holes, things so massive that they bend the very fabric of reality. My question for you, respected gentlemen, is this: what do you think these ‘black holes’ can be?”

Oh, so that’s two of our guests identified – the latest entry in the Cragne-of-the-month club isn’t too exciting, but his first interlocutor is Enrico Fermi! Fermi is a legend; he won the Physics Nobel at 37 and his fingers are all over the standard model, personally developing a lot of the theory around the weak force and deducing the existence of neutrinos. He also left fascist Italy to become an American (his wife was Jewish) and played a key role in the Manhattan Project, building the first nuclear pile on a Columbia University squash court. Just an all-time great – this would be couple years before he died, since he was one of the several Manhattan Project alums who got cancer relatively young.

>x fermi
Something’s wrong with these people. They seem translucent and blurred.

The other guest says: “We don’t know. It could be a collapsed star, attracting more and more matter…”

“I must disagree, Dr. Von Braun,” Fermi interrupts. “Also Dr. Einstein himself thinks these ‘black holes’ are just theoretical solutions of his general relativity equations, not things happening in reality…”

…and this is Wernher Van Braun, a Nazi.

A member of the SS, he developed the V2 rocket, intended for the terror bombing of Allied cities – though since they were assembled by slave labor in concentration camps they probably killed more people being made than when they blew up.

Post-war, the US yoinked him through Operation Paperclip to lead up our rocket development programs, and he played a key role in the early stages of the space race, but seriously, fuck this guy.

We seethe through the rest of the conversation:

“And yet, the universe is so vast, and we know only a very tiny part of it. Maybe Dr. Einstein is wrong. Maybe, somewhere, something so massive and energetic can exist. It could even be a living thing.”

“Anyway, I think Einstein could be wrong about something else: what if the speed of light could be beaten? The consequences of that would be daunting: the very notion of simultaneity, as we understand it, is based on the speed of light. But if something, someway, could beat it…”

“We could break the rules of space-time, travel through time, and see things that happened in the past…” Von Braun speculates.

“In the distant, ancestral past,” Cragne intervenes. “I gathered you here, revered scientists, to show you my recent discovery. You can freely take it, if you want. Maybe you can derive new scientific progress from it, or even build some device which can take us where we couldn’t possibly even think of, until now. Do you dare to look in the abyss?”

The two men stare at their host, curious and frightened all the same, as their bodies become more and more translucent, until they disappear, together with the plates, the glasses, the tablecloth and all the rest, leaving just an old, dusty table.

And we’re back!

Dining Room (Roberto Colnaghi)
A long, rectangular mahogany table takes up most of the room. The room is old and dusty, and it seems decades have passed since the last time someone had dinner here. On the table lies a strange machine, and a calendar is pinned on the wall. Doorways lead west, east, and south.

Next to the machine there is also an old magazine cutting.

>x calendar
Today is the 22nd of April, 1996.

…or are we?

>x table
Instead of the tablecloth and dishes that crowded the table before, it is now covered by dust–and a bizarre machine.

On the table is an Italian magazine cutting.

>x cutting
This is a cutting from an old Italian magazine. Printed on a corner is “La Domenica del Corriere, 2 Maggio 1972”, and is apparently an article about an Italian monk and his alleged invention. In particular, a photo on the page strikes you. Attached to the newspaper cutting is what seems a typewritten translation of the article in English.

>take it

>read it
The article is an interview with Father Pellegrino Ernetti, a Benedictine monk and official exorcist of Venice, as well as physics and electronic amateur, about his invention. He claims his “chronovisor” is the fruit of years of research with twelve of the best minds of his time, Enrico Fermi and Wernher von Braun among them. Receiving all kinds of electromagnetic and sound waves with its sensors and antennae, the chronovisor can show images and sounds from any place, at any past time, no matter how distant. He claims to have seen many historic figures from the past, and through it he was able to transcribe a lost tragedy of Ennio, and to record an image of Christ on the cross (published in the magazine). It seems that the monk is very jealous of his invention, as he refuses to show it to anyone.

I have a suspicion… yup, some quick searching confirms that this guy and his “chronovisor” claims are historical, which I’m assuming was the jumping-off point for this sequence. I love that kind of stuff!

>x device
It seems straight out of a 60s science fiction movie: a big cathodic screen is hooked up to an electronic board with some controls on it, which in turn is hooked up to a bunch of different sensors. It takes up most part of the table.

The machine is currently switched off.

>x electronic board
This board is connected to both the screen and the sensors. It is filled with LEDs and lights, and prominently a steel dial and a machine control button.

The machine emits a very low hum.

>x screen
The most recognizable part of this contraption is a big steel-encased glass screen, with a speaker mounted on it. The screen shows the manor from the outside.

>x dial
A rotating steel disc, plain and simple. No arrows or gauge around it. The dial is turned all the way to the left.

So this seems intuitive enough…

>turn dial
You turn the dial right and it stops with a click. You joggle it back left, but it’s stuck. Looks like you can only turn it right. The LEDs on the electronic board start blinking faster. The hum of the machine changes pitch, going up as the images on the screen change abruptly. The screen seems to show the same location as before, but with the manor gone. Instead you can see a tribe of natives dancing around a wooden totem.

The machine’s humming is still quite low.

>x totem
A Native American tribe is singing and dancing around a totem. The totem depicts animals, but mostly fishes or crustaceans, a strange thing considering this place is nowhere near the sea.

The machine’s humming is still quite low.

That “still” seems to be implying things might change, but what the hey:

>turn dial
The images on the screen change again. The LEDs blink faster and faster as the humming gets higher in pitch. Now you can only see the hill on which the manor stands, with no artifacts, no trails and no other trace of human presence. The hill also seems slightly taller.

The machine is emitting a high tone sound.

>x hill
The hill shown on the screen seems higher, yet it strongly resembles the one on which the manor sits. The vegetation is much thicker, with green conifers covering the landscape. As you look harder, you notice fast movements, probably wild animals.

>turn dial
The screen now shows a mountain, with vegetation you’ve only seen in some science textbook. Still, you feel this must be the same place you are in now. Suddenly, something dives from the right of the view, screaming fiercely before vanishing quickly. A prehistoric flying reptilian, by the looks of it.

The sound of the machine is now a high pitched shriek.

>x mountain
The mountain on the screen seems to be the very same hill you’ve been watching, only seen as it was millions of years ago. Ancient plants dominate the view, and huge reptilians can be seen wandering around.

Of course we already knew there were dinosaurs around here from the ill-fated paleontology dig we ran into (of course, it wasn’t ill-fated before we ran into it…)

>turn dial
The images on the screen change again. No mountain anymore, no animals or plants, not even earth, just empty space. There’s only darkness now, pointed by stars. Something in the middle of the screen catches your attention: it’s like a whirl, turning in the blackness of deep space. The humming is now a piercing shriek, and the lights on the electronic board are blinking like crazy.

You feel an impulse to keep watching the whirl on the screen.

The sound emitted by the machine is very acute, bordering to ultrasound.

>x whirl
A black vortex at the screen’s center whirls. Stars orbit around it with increasing speed until they are sucked in. Then you notice the vortex becoming bigger or nearer. Only when the thing has completely covered the screen, you realize that there’s actually something in that blackness. The LEDs are blinking so fast you can’t even see them, and the scream of the machine is breaking your ears. But you’re totally paralyzed, watching the writhing appendages dwelling in the vortex, as you realize that hideous thing is a living being, swarming the cosmos and wreaking havoc through galaxies. Then, some circuitry on the electronic board burns out. The shriek drops to a very low frequency, as most of the lights burn, and the machine becomes silent. But you just can’t forget that horrific image, as the word VAADIGNEPHOD echoes in your brain.

Well that’s disturbing, including about the ontology of the earth – we’ve witnessed a shadow out of time indeed!

I’m not sure we’ve actually learned anything new, but the coffee says there’s nothing left to do here – perhaps this was all just establishing some atmosphere and texture, but if so, I enjoyed it!

(To be continued later today)


In case I’m still supposed to answer any questions, I’m here.


Love this walkthrough of my humble landing! But can’t believe the alcove was so easily discovered. Chalk it up to this being my very first serious go at Inform. Also, it might help to know I was living on the southern coast of Spain at the time, which is why tentacles and ceviche (a kind of veggie salad with raw fish) were very much on my mind.


(Chapter the Eleventh, continued)

I realize I omitted something from the above – somewhere as we were messing about with the bookshelves on the landing, this happened:

You feel a queer tickle ripple through your body. Looking down, you see the horrible tentacle disintegrate and disappear before your eyes. You sense that some primordial godhead has left this world.

Aww, that’s too bad – I was looking forward to trying to slip this to Bethany.

We’ve got a choice of west or east here, so let’s try west:

The Kitchen (Edward B)
The Cragne family kitchen. Light from a naked bulb feeds shadow down the spaces between old cabinets, counters and bookshelves. A dusty, doorless fridge overlooks an oven just as worse for wear. You’d guess it’s been a minute since anyone’s used this room to cook. A doorway leads east, and a wooden door set in the floor appears to lead to a cellar or basement.

Edward B is another mystery – IFDB has a prolific author of mid-80s text adventures named Edward Beck but seems unlikely to be the same person.

(Also, between doing the dining room and coming to the kitchen there was a longish real-life pause because our bathroom shower sprang a major leak. I’m listening carefully for the sound of an engine vrooming).

>x bulb
(the naked bulb)
An uncovered lightbulb. Eyeing the walls, you can’t seem to find the switch…

>ogle it
That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work somewhere later.

Peter’s long absence is starting to get to Nitocris!

>x cabinets
A pair of old wood cabinets sit above the sink on the northern wall. When they were new, they were probably quite lovely. The handles are missing from their doors, but a bit of pressure could pop them open.

>open it
You finagle your fingers around the cabinet doors and wiggle them open.

>x it
A few dirty plates and cups sit forgotten in the cabinets.

In the cabinet are red-rimmed porcelain cups and red-rimmed porcelain plates.

This is a nice change of pace from our usual run of red-rimmed eyes.

>x plates
A stack of five red-rimmed porcelain plates. You could see yourself selling these at a yard sale, when all is said and done.

>x cups
Three red-rimmed porcelain cups. Not one is without a chip or crack.

We pick up both sets, because you never know when you’ll need to serve an impromptu tea (we’ve already got the pot, after all).

>x counters
A light pine counter occupies the kitchen’s northwestern corner. It seems to have faired well enough post-abandonment. A stocked spice rack sits alone on the counter-space closest to the fridge and a sink rests in the countertop directly beneath a pair of cabinets.

>x rack
A simple wooden spice rack. It holds an oddly complete collection of spices in contrast to the empty shelves and fridge. You spot jars of saffron, roast garlic, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, dill, salt, pepper, MSG, and something called snail paste… most look fresh enough to use. Safe to test with a sniff or a taste, you imagine. Does spice go bad? Does snail paste?

I mean in my house, ten spices doesn’t count as “oddly complete” but this is a reasonable set of choices.

While this is maybe overly-detailed, I liked the writing here so I’m going to run through a reasonably-complete exploration of the spices.

>smell saffron
You hold the little jar to your nose. The saffron gives off an electric, leathery smell. Quite nice!

>taste it
You pinch out a red thread and slip it in your mouth. It doesn’t taste like much at first, just the funny feeling of a little twig on your tongue. After swallowing it, you notice a lingering earthy sweet funk.

>take it
You put a few threads into a pocket. Might as well… the stuff’s supposed to be worth its weight in gold.

This is very true, we should grab way more than a few threads (and put them somewhere more secure than just our pocket, this basically just makes it orange lint).

>x garlic
A small glass jar with the words “roasted garlic” written in marker on its side. All the strangeness going on today… was there a vampire in there somewhere?

>smell it
You hold the jar to your nose and take in a hearty whiff. It’s a strong smell, one that conjures memories of your garlicy meals of yesteryear. In fact, your mind can’t help but add a phantom scent of meat. Brains are funny little things.

>taste it
You lightly press a fingertip on the surface of the spice and bring the clinging bits of garlic to your tongue. Not an awesome taste, all on its own. A punchy, acrid flavor that creeps up your nose.

Again, I’m enjoying the depth of implementation here. We take this too, and it likewise becomes a sprinkling of dust in our pocket.

>x turmeric
A small glass jar hand-labeled “turmeric.” What a delightfully orange spice. You wonder if Peter’s extended family was into curry.

>smell it
You hold the jar to your nose. Even after a deep huff, the smell is faint… like a brighter dirt.

>taste it
You dip your finger in the jar and have a little taste. It’s earthy, but not especially strong. There’s a hint of something minty to it.

This is exactly my objection to turmeric – it’s fine, but a little meh. Like why use it by itself, instead of with cumin or curry powder.

(Please nobody tell my wife’s family, they’re Persian and turmeric is like the ur-spice).

>x cardamom
A small glass jar with a colorful commercial label reading “Forgotten Frontier’s whole cardamom pods.” Light brown, oblong seed pods fill about two-thirds of the jar. Funny looking things.

>smell it
You unscrew the top and let the smell waft up your nose. Mmm. An invigorating peppery-sweet smell. Floral too.

>taste it
You know enough to know the pods themselves ain’t for eating.

My attempts to grind it up prove fruitless.

(We’re taking all of these by the way, I’m just omitting the uninteresting bits of the transcript since this is long enough already).

>x cinnamon
A small glass jar hand-labeled “cinnamon.” It’s packed with (presumably) cinnamon.

>smell it
You hold the jar to your nose. The pungent, spicy smell of cinnamon stick to your nostrils. A familiar smell, like an old friend.

>taste it
You take a small pinch of cinnamon to your lips. The familiar woody-sweet taste reminds you of happier days. Peter’s signature dessert was cinnamon rolls with cream cheese.

?Did you just say “was?” Oh god. Peter’s fine, you tell yourself.

You’ll find him soon. You will.

You have to.

A nice touch here, rewarding obsessive exploration.

>x dill
A small glass jar of loose dill. The leaves have gone a gray-green with age.

>smell it
You give the jar a shake and hold it to your nose. A sweet, musky, grassy smell. You can almost taste it.

>taste it
You drop a few threads of dill into your palm and pop them in your mouth. It tastes dill-icious! Ha. Not really, time has sapped most of the flavor from these little leaves.

>x salt
A five-sided glass jar with a colorful commercial label that reads “Forgotten Frontier’s hyper-corporeal salt.” Wait, was it five sides? When you look again it seems to only have four…

>take it
Omigod! As you reach in the container, the sensation of touch on your fingertips becomes incredibly intense! The detail is beyond what you’ve ever experienced, you’re reminded of the time you wore your first pair of glasses…

The grooves of your pointer finger and thumb rake across the salt, taking in each grain’s jagged voyage down your fingerprint step by step. Experimentally, you prod and roll a single grain of salt. You’re positive you could take the salt out grain by grain. In fact, feeling more than a few grains at a time is overwhelming… the very idea of trying to take all the salt at once makes you shiver.

You hoist one grain from the jar and drop it in your pocket. The hyper-sensitivity in your fingers quickly fades as they leave the jar.

This is some special salt!

>eat it
Whoa! As you reach in the container, the sensation of touch on your fingertips becomes incredibly intense! Like a breath of winter-cool air, the fogginess of everyday feeling is overtaken by an exhilarating precision.

The grooves of your pointer finger and thumb rake across the salt, taking in each grain’s jagged voyage down your fingerprint step by step. Experimentally, you prod and roll a single grain of salt. You’re positive you could take the salt out grain by grain. In fact, feeling more than a few grains at a time is overwhelming… the very idea of trying to take ALL the salt at once makes you shiver.

You hoist one grain from the jar and drop it in your mouth. You hardly taste a thing. The intensity all seems to stay within the strange container.

We can take a hint:

>take all salt
You decide to go for it, no time for this one-by-one nonsense! You press your fingers against the surface of the salt, trying to dig in. But it’s too much! Hundreds of angry grains bite against your flesh with gobs of detail. You can’t help but pull your hand back in shock.

Determined, you try again. You take a deep breath… pull your hand back… and strike the salt like a snake! Jamming your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers deep into the salt jar.


Your death from shock felt eternal. Ceaseless cascades of sodium-flavored information multiplying by layers, angles, and skin. An endless, hopeless, pointless parade of every particle pressing every particle. A boring story told in an elongated instant. In that infinite place, everything you once were was lost. You died as nothing but a few fingers touching six hundred and thirty eight thousand, four hundred and fifteen grains of salt…

*** Give or take a grain. ***

See, if Nitocris had taken the mummy-queen option over the ghoul-queen model, she’d already have been stuffed with natron and this would be NBD. We undo back to (un)life.

>x pepper
A small glass jar of ground black pepper. Squinting, you can barely make out that someone has written “pepper” in black marker on the jar.

>take it
You place a pinch of pepper in your patulous pocket.

“Patulous” means spreading out, but more in the sense of branches on a tree, so I think this is a bit of a strain to get the alliteration to work (maybe “puffed-out” instead)?

>eat it
You grab a small pinch of pepper, throw your head back, and sprinkle it onto your tongue. Pretty good! That prickly, piney, hot-but-not taste of decent black pepper is always welcome.

>smell it
You hold the jar to your nose and… and… ah…


A pinch of pepper that makes you sneeze, huh?

(Players of my first game might get why I’m chuckling to myself now).

Getting to the end now:

>x msg
A short glass jar hand-labeled “MSG.” Intrigued, you pick it up for a closer look. You know that’s the stuff restaurants use as like a savory salt but… something about those initials makes you feel very strange. It’s as if some progenitive force looms over these letters. “MSG!” shouts a voice from the center of your mind “god above gods!” Your eyes roll back and blindly you drop the jar. Your body convulses with waves of dark unknowable MSG.

Some minutes later, you return to your senses. Using the counter to keep steady, you lift yourself from the floor. The jar of… that spice… sits quietly on the spice rack where you found it. You shudder and try to think of something else.

I feel like this buys into MSG-exceptionalism that from my understanding doesn’t really hold up (there’s a lot of racialized dynamics around MSG…) Anyway we can’t do anything to it now, we just “try to think of something else.”

>x paste
A small glass jar with a colorful commercial label reading “Forgotten Frontier’s Floridian Snail Paste.” The jar is full of a sickly purple-gray sludge. There’s not much information on the small label… Nutrition facts read simply: “Melanoides tuberculata - 2 oz.”

That’s the red-rimmed melania, a species of freshwater snail. Lotsa red-rimmed stuff around this kitchen…

>smell it
You hold the jar to your nose and chance a little sniff. It’s fishy and a bit peppery, not altogether unpleasant.

>taste it
You twist open the lid and gingerly dip your finger in the goo. It looks totally frightening but maybe it’s a delicacy? After a moment’s hesitation, you drop your tainted finger in your mouth. BLEH! It’s a complicated flavor. HNNG! Several distinct notes express themselves at once. GAK! A hint of uncooked mushroom, a dash of pine dish soap, the sense of some VAAD! dirt flavored beer, a pervasive line of copper… and it feels like the paste in your mouth is moving a bit on its own. IGN! You vision begins to redden at the edges. EPH! Your eyes dart wildly around the kitchen for a trashcan and, not finding one, spit the ooze out in the sink. Yuck.

That’s got some kick! It goes into the pocket too.

We’re done with the rack – again, I know that was a lot of detail, and I’m not sure there’s a puzzle associated with these yet, but I really dug the level of detail here so wanted to show it off!

There’s other stuff here, too:

>x sink
A metal sink, browning at the edges. It’s dry as a bone.

>turn on sink
You twist the knobs fruitlessly.

After our experience in the bathroom, we’re not gonna mess with the plumbing any more.

>x bookshelves
A blue plywood bookshelf leans haphazardly against the wall beside the fridge. Marks on the dusty shelves suggest a formerly robust collection. A few of the remaining cookbooks catch your eye…

On the bookshelf are Hyper-Gastronomy, Exactness, and String Theory: a Theoretical Subdiscipline of Cooking and Baking by Chef Wheldrake, A Culinary Overview of Superstitions in the Miskaton Valley Region by S. Jarret Zornwharf and Mama Hydra’s Deep Fried Ones.

I’m sure there are some nummy recipes in all of these!

>x hyper-gastronomy
A ragged book with a dark green cover.

>take it

>read it
Flipping through the pages, you can see that this work is clearly over your head… or more likely straight gobbledygook. Many pages are nothing but mathematic equations but one chapter appears to cover the “mouthfeel” of different Quarks in great detail. Another rants about the differing politics and ideologies of “certain well-known mineral deposits.” Good lord.

I’ve heard of rock-ribbed conservatives, but this seems like something else.

>x culinary
A massive tome of a cookbook, bigger than The Joy of Cooking by half. The back of the book says the author lived in villages up and down the Miskaton river and painstakingly gathered “an oral history of superstitious meals and snacks” throughout his life.

>read it
A few of the passages stand out…

The Legend of Goad Cragne
The Ritual of Lost Luck
The Chewed Pit and Other Detritus
The “Rat Hole” Legend
The “Ghost Libation” Legend

After a bit of parser wrangling, I figure out how to access these sections:

>read introduction
One of the more rambling, self-righteous introductions you’ve seen for a cookbook. Lots of unreadable lines, a highlight being: “Food takes on this form of expression which no doubt all families are bound to take part in and in the case of aforementioned societal trauma a way of speaking these so-called unspeakable or unknowable things sidestepping logic insisted upon in language with a primal glance towards truth one never sees or hears but rather smells or feels.” …yikes.

Yikes indeed, someone needs to learn about punctuation.

>read goad
Cragne Sandwich Serves Two

Ingredients: 1 jar pickled Herring 4 slices rye bread 1 beet, cubed 1 teaspoon mustard 4 tablespoons sour cream 2 tablespoons olive oil 374 grains salt ½ shallot, thinly sliced 3 sprigs green onions 2 springs dil 1 tablespoon butter 4 teaspoons capers 2 tablespoons broccoli florets 1 hardboiled egg

Instructions: “Goad was a fisherman called towards cruelty. It was Goad’s youngest who they say finally put a stop to him. Seven years old, poisoned her father’s favorite lunch. They say he dropped dead on the first bite, the little one hadn’t known what was too much or too little. But then… they also say Goad stood up the next morning. Say he walked straight to the Miskaton, caught twenty eight fish in two hours, and died again. No one really admits they believe that part of the story… but you can tell by the droop in their eye which ones tasted the fish Goad caught that day.”

Looking at the sandwich recipe, I don’t see where the poison got slipped in, unless dude was allergic to capers?

That highly-specific number of salt grains is interesting…

>read luck
Lost Luck Soup Serves Six

Ingredients: 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and chopped 4 to 5 white or yellow onions 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 cloves garlic, crushed 7 cups chicken broth 3 springs thyme 3 bay leaves 3866 grains salt ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions: “What sickens me is how quickly the vendors arrive, only minutes after the search party. The soup they hawk is an expected element of the searching ritual. We never find a child lost to the Miskaton River. We always have a bowl of soup.”

“Last chance for luck! One bowl’s one prayer! The cost’s unkind but the price is fair! First bowl for luck! Second’s for grief! The third spits a curse on the whole belief!”

Maybe this could help us find something? Pretty much none of these ingredients are things we’ve come across yet, though, except again the precisely-defined salt quantity.

>read pit
Pit Pie Filling Serves Six to Eight

Ingredients: 1 Peach Pit 3 cups blueberries 3 cups blackberries 2 tablespoons butter 1/3 cup white sugar 2/3 cup brown sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 18041 grains salt 1/4 cup lemon juice

Instructions: “No one had time to think that day. I think that’s why none of us went mad. We were all so busy undamming the river, up to our waists in shit… not one of us had the energy to… to see what we were pulling out. It wasn’t all just bags and bike tires. It… No one else’ll talk to me about it. Fuck, I don’t even know what there would be to say. Anyways, it’s like I said, after that day is when we started getting berries growing along the river. I don’t think I’d like to talk much more about it.”

>read rat hole
Amaranth “Rat” Cakes Serves Twelve to Sixteen

Ingredients: 2 cup amaranth grain 1 ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms 4 tablespoons shallots 2 eggs 4 tablespoons flour 62031 grains salt 2 teaspoons Floridian snail paste 2 tablespoons fresh summer savory

Instructions: “Holes that are crisp to the eye which appear in wide turns of our river at no particular time nor for any godly purpose.” “Nothing but beer to drink and Verm Cakes to eat, that’s the trad aspect. But you know, I think back in the day people drank somethin nicer than beer… (laughs) And it was a Rat Cake back then! Not a Verm… But yeah, usually it takes a few days a” waiting. Lucky when it does show it’s loud enough to wake us if we’re sleepin… so yeah we all hustle to dump what the Verm Hole wants into the river. They, that stuff, it always floats straight to the hole, every time so yeah. It’s not pretty but at the other hand it’s honest work… three of my grandparents fed the Verm Holes. And like… I mean, sometimes it’s just a cow."

Well, that’s one use for snail paste, though these instructions are worse than those blog-post-cum-recipes you find everywhere online these days (stupid search-engine optimization).

>read ghost
(the Ghost Libation Legend)
The Lonesome Keen Serves One

Ingredients: 1 part cold gin 2 parts warm apple cider 1 pinch cinnamon 8 grains salt

Instructions: “It alls means something, thids drink. My great-grandfather… a Cragne! Keening Ken Cragne! Through from the… to the top. Is he here now? Is he dead? (laughs) And we remember wha (unintelligible) Kenneth Cragne! It all meanses something… listen to me… listen… Two parts cider, yeah? Because two days outta three, ol” Ken Cragne put cider in his flask! Calm days, they say. My dad said thad. Calm Ken days… Calm. But I wasn’t alive then I don’t (unintelligible.) But still I remember the gin days, you know? I shouldn’t remember 'em right? Because that’s crazy, right? (laughs) Why do I remember Ken Bastard Cragnes cold gin days, huh? Thas weird, right? My grandpa’s the only kid of nine to like… Hold on okay. Lemme EXPLAIN the DRINK. The pinch of cinn- of cinnda- the punch a cibadon… cinnamon. That’s Ken’s lonely work! Train conductor, and actually the only one in my family to do that particular occupation. Big money becauss he smuggled cinner… cinn… he smuggled lots of things actually. They’d all be dead by now anyways, right? (unintelligible) What were we talking about? Oh! Oh god! EIGHT GRAINS OF SALT! EXACT! PRECISE OR HE DOES THE THING OKAY? Eight kids eight grains eight bloody brains. I would sing thadt. Perfect or Ken… Ken is here right now, right? Don’t tell him I said- he just dead but he’s here… He usedta beat up my mom and dad… after they died! I don’t know knowww whyyy. We Cragne’s got space in our blood. Space times. Very dignified, do you hear me? Very dignified! That’s the name. That’s hell. LISTEN TO (unintelligible) dig… we got… we… please…

We’ve actually got half these ingredients already, and it seems like it’ll help us do – something? – with ghosts? (Though per Christabell ghosts aren’t real) We also learn the name of another Cragne, but if there’s a nod to a Variegated Court position in all that I can’t decode it.

>mama hydra’s
A funny little cookbook. The cover is a picture of a massive deep fryer sitting in a vast cavern. It must be a doctored photograph, the fryer looks like it’s the size of a swimming pool.

>read it

Flipping through the pages, it seems to be a rather standard cookbook. The pictures, however, are disgusting.

A little less lavish implementation on this one but honestly that’s a nice change of pace.

Almost done!

>x oven
You look over the broken down oven. It’s dented, the glass window on the door is shattered, and sitting on top of the stove is… another stove? You take a closer look and yes, some Cragne of the recent past put a cooktop stove on top of this oven. The cooktop stove is connected to a little tank of gas.

>open oven
You pull open the oven door. It looks empty inside. No leftover shards of glass, that’s good.

Again, we’re pretty well-supplied on shards of glass.

>x cooktop
A dirty steel cooktop stove with two gas burners. Something about seeing dirt stuck to a so-called stainless steel piece of cookware fills you with a sick pleasure. A little hose runs out the back of the cooktop stove and down to a tank of gas on the floor.

>x tank
A little green tank of gas. The meter’s needle is resting firmly against the E. You can’t help but think of the dumbest joke your husband always makes when your car is running low… in the exact same deadpan every time, he looks off into the distance and says “E… Enough gas.” What a goober.

…you know, I can’t help but detect the occasional disconnect between Nitocris, immortal creature of unutterable darkness, and Peter Cragne, sorta-goofy scion of a creepy family. Sometimes opposites just click though, so I’m reserving judgment (maybe she just needs a sacrifice from his bloodline and is playing the long game).

>x fridge
A refrigerator with no door. It’s funny, you actually had a doorless, broken fridge in your first apartment. You and your friends used it as a bookshelf.

That’s not so much “funny” as “maybe technically uninhabitable depending on the municipal code of the city you live in,” but college-aged Nitocris’s theoretical claims against her landlord are maybe neither here nor there.

Wait, was her first apartment like 4000 years ago? If so, that wasn’t not a “doorless, broken fridge”, that literally was a bookshelf.


>x door
A wooden door with a rusty iron lock is set in the northeastern corner between the counter and the fridge. It looks heavy.

That’s the cellar door, and we don’t have the key.

The coffee confirms we need something from elsewhere to progress here; I’ll be disappointed if that just means we need a key, since based on all the stuff here I’m hoping there’s a cooking puzzle too.

We’ve explored four (and a half) rooms already, but some of them were pretty short and we haven’t accomplished that much yet, so I’m going to extend the update a little more.

(Wrapping up the chapter will probably happen tonight)


Dunno if others do, but I certainly have a couple:

  1. Those newspaper articles span a wide range of topics, and have a couple recurring characters and seem to resonate with a few other strands of the story. Were there particular ideas you were trying to get across, or stuff other folks were doing that you were riffing off of?

  2. Where’d you come up with the “Anchorhead was actually written a century ago” bit? I thought that was entertainingly bonkers!

  3. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but how much would we need to pay you to never try to rhyme anything ever again?

But really it’d be cool to hear anything you want to share, like if I missed anything cool in my playthrough or if there’s a piece you were especially proud of.

Honestly you just fell victim from my tendency to lawnmower my way through location descriptions just typing X NOUN for every one I see – I’d already entered the command when I realized you were just using it to describe the overall room, so was surprised that it had a custom response. Anyway a little bit of non-Euclidean geography is probably a positive in Cragne Manor.

Oh, interesting – I associate ceviche so strongly with Peruvian food I assumed that was the reference point! Fewer octopi in their cuisine though, I think, so that explains the linkage.


I don’t remember the kitchen at all…thanks for trying all the slices, that’s some great writing!


My dad more than once shared with me a recollection of watching, in the day, some news footage where Braun was describing how the moon landing would be accomplished. You know, the orbiter, bits going down to the moon then coming back. And how the audience laughed. And then how ultimately it was all done as he’d described it.



I feel obligated to tell you that the pendant is just an Anchorhead Easter egg. Feel free to tuck it away in the Jansport.


(Chapter the Eleventh, concluded)

We head back to the dining room, then east:

Sitting Room (Buster Hudson)
The floorboards groan against your footsteps as you enter the dusty sitting room. Light struggles to penetrate the grimy bay window, hinting at the space around you. Various pieces of furniture are covered by moldy, moth-bitten sheets. The remains of a portrait hang above the fireplace. Leaning against a wall is a large mirror.

Seems like no one has used this room in some time.

Buster Hudson, he of Wizard Sniffer fame, needs no introduction from the likes of me.

I’ve been sensing a theme through much of the manor:

>x floorboards

>x dust

>x furniture
Merely looking at the dusty, sheet-covered furniture has you itching to take an antihistamine.

Nitocris has some thoughts on how the Cragnes might better motivate their maids.

>x portrait
Whoever it was has been ripped to shreds.

>x fireplace
It’s empty.

Gotta say, this is one of the most boring rooms we’ve seen so far – all that’s left is that mirror…

>x mirror
You gaze at yourself in the mirror, marveling at the way the afternoon sun shimmers across the gold and gray hues in your neatly coiffed hair. Moira has such a talent for the latest styles that you can hardly help but employ her assistance every morning, even when you have no plans to go into town.

Today you chose to wear one of your violet dresses with thin black stripes and velvet trim. The high neck and full sleeves of the tailored coat are double-lined to protect against any errant draughts. Lord knows how they like to scurry through the house this time of year. And it has been so especially cold as of late.

“Really, darling, with all the time you spend gawking at your own reflection, I don’t know how you have much time for anything else,” Eustace says, his words soaked in irritation. The argument from the night before lingers between the two of you. You can already taste a bitter retort forming on your lips. You swallow it back down.

He continues. “Would you be a dear and ring Moira for me? I believe I saw the postman come through and am expecting an important letter.” He motions to the bell pull before turning his newspaper to the next page and shaking it stiff.

Oh, here we go yo.

We are not especially down with the gender roles on display, but I guess we’ll play this one out for a bit.

Sitting Room (Buster Hudson)
With a roaring fire and the sunlight streaming in through the large bay window, the sitting room might pass for inviting. You’ve asked Eustace if you could paper the walls with a brighter color and perhaps move the domineering portrait of the Cragne ancestor to the study, but he refuses a single change. That is, save for the mirror, which you were permitted to hang near the entrance to the dining room to the west. Having your reflection nearby always gives you comfort, as if without the frequent reminder, you would begin to forget yourself.

Eustace is reading the paper in his chair by the window.

>x newspaper
The Vermont Phoenix, dated yesterday, Friday, February 3, 1899. Most of the print is too small to read without your nose pressed against it, but you do notice the headline exclaiming how a fire burned down the S. A. Smith and Co plant. Someone captured an exposure of the event and thought to put it on the front page.

To think you live in a world where one would rather photograph a fire than help put it out.

>x fire
The fire does its best to repel the deep February chill. Above the fireplace is a portrait, and beside that is the bell pull.

>x portrait
The great Horace Cragne is perched above the fireplace, maintaining a constant vigilance over the sitting room. You think he would serve better in the study. At the very least, he would avoid frightening the ladies from church when they visit for tea after Sunday service. His face is gaunt, features severe, and his eyes are rimmed a deep crimson. You prefer not to meet his gaze.

>meet gaze
That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work somewhere later.

Nitocris’ defiance notwithstanding, see what I mean about all the eyes? Anyway Bachelor #3 here seems like he might be a member of the Court – at least, better odds for him than the hapless Eustace.

>x window
Through the window you have a view of the front porch, from which hangs the peculiar chimes that whistle and clang eerily with each passing breeze. Beyond is the wide yard, and beyond that the forest line, and farther still, Backwater. If you squint hard enough, you can sometimes make out a few townspeople wandering about, attempting to find some significance in their lives.

>x eustace
He has aged considerably in recent years. His hair has retreated backwards as if terrified of his own face. Even his beard and mustache refuse to grow. His eyes are always burdened by heavy bags, no matter how much sleep he manages the night before.

What a catch!

>x me
You are Lillian, lady of Cragne Manor. Some days, you wish you were someone else. But only some.

>ask eustace about horace
“I believe the portrait would be more dignified in the study. Perhaps we could move the landscape in here.”

Eustace grimaces. “As I have already said, if you would like the portrait to be displayed at all, it will have to be in here. Otherwise, it goes in the attic,” he says.

>ask eustace about attic
You don’t consider that a worthy enough topic of conversation.

C’mon Lillian, stand up for yourself.

>ask eustace about me
“I was thinking of taking up shooting again, when the weather is warmer,” you say. “Father always insisted upon my skill with a rifle. You don’t think it too brazen for a lady, do you?”

“If you wish it,” Eustace replies, in such a way that you know he wasn’t listening.

>ask eustace about moira
“I don’t know that Moira’s work has been satisfactory. We might consider someone else.”

“Moira?” Eustace asks, perplexed by the suggestion. “She has been splendid. Even you admit you prefer the way she does your hair.”

“Well, yes. It’s one reason to retain her. I am sure you have reasons to keep her nearby, too,” you say. To that, Eustace doesn’t reply.

Oh snap – I’ve read enough 19th Century novels to recognize a shiv when I see one.

>pull bell pull
You ring the bell, and Moira arrives soon after, a flurry of freckles and red curls. She stumbles into a curtsey.

“Ma’am. Sir.” Her brogue is strong, lending her a tendency to be brief whenever possible.

“Has the post arrived today?” Eustace asks, and she confirms that it has before disappearing into the next room and returning with two envelopes. She hands both of them to you.

You dismiss her promptly.

You are carrying a formal letter to Eustace and a handwritten letter to you.

>x formal
It’s from Yale University and addressed to Eustace. It’s sealed.

Of course Eustace went to Yale.

>give formal to eustace
(to Eustace)
Eustace tucks the newspaper under an arm and takes the envelope. “Thank you, darling. This appears to be what I was waiting for.” He rises from his chair and opens the secretary, rifling through the various nooks and drawers. His search comes up empty.

“Darling,” he says, “have you misplaced my letter opener yet again? You know how protective I am of it.”

>push eustace
Eustace might not like that.

No, but Nitocris would!

>murder him
No. Not yet.

Buster, I feel like you and I are simpatico.

>x handwritten
It’s addressed to you from Christopher, off at boarding school. All that’s left is to open it.

>read it
You use your fingers to open the envelope like a heathen, then unfold the letter within.

My dear mother,

I hope you are well and remain so through this dreadful winter. I am happy to report your Christmas fruit cake survived the journey unscathed and has been enjoyed with great enthusiasm by the other boys. I am passing along their compliments. Second term is just beginning, and much work is anticipated. I will try to keep regular correspondence as you requested.

My nightmares have been growing worse as of late. Even though I never met grandfather, I know it is he who visits me. I pray every night, but God seems to ignore me. What am I to do? Might you send some funds for a doctor? Perhaps he could prescribe a tonic to aid me in my sleep.

I love you, mother, in so many ways and more. Give father my love. I will write again soon.

Your beloved son,

So our son is being haunted by our creepy-ass father-in-law, and seems to be nursing an Oedipus complex to boot. Great.

>ask eustace about christopher
“Christopher has written,” you say. “He’s doing well. I suspect he’ll be top of his class this year. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, I’m sure he will,” Eustace says curtly.

As you open your mouth to speak, Eustace rudely interrupts. “That’s enough talk for today, darling. Perhaps a visit with Mrs. Hanover is in order. She does like to prattle on so. After you return my letter opener, of course.”

It seems you have your task and there is nothing more to say.

It’s true, there’s definitely not anything I want to say to Eustace.

There’s not much immediately to do here, and when I try to explore the past-version of the manor I get this:

You have the urge to look in the mirror before you depart. It’s a quirk of yours you can’t seem to avoid.

We don’t have our inventory as Lillian, of course, so we go all timey-wimey again:

>x mirror
What’s this? Who is this woman staring back at you? She is dressed… bizarrely, to put it mildly. And yet, there is something familiar about her. Something… oh. Oh God. What… what just happened?

Your eyes adjust to the dimness of the dusty room. You check yourself over, and find you are yourself again. Were you dreaming? Or were you a woman from another time? It’s hard to tell. You’ve been feeling like someone else everywhere you go in Backwater.

“Dressed bizarrely” is entirely fair (at this point we’ve got o Ed’s coveralls, the Realtor™ jacket, the trolley pass, and pockets overflowing with spices – and this is actually the most normal we’ve looked in a while!) Anyway now we’re back in the present, the coffee confirms we need something from elsewhere to make progress – seems pretty clear we’ve got to find the letter opener in the present before we can, uh, return it to Eustace in the past.

…let’s do one more room, then wrap up. All the way back to the foyer, then let’s go east:

Gallery (YerrikTRB/Erica Newman)
A long and narrow room, with a satin wallcovering in rich, patterned green above the creamy wainscot paneling. The room is overcrowded with paintings and furniture. The door behind you exits to the west, and a door at the end of the gallery on the left wall leads to the north.

This gallery is quite narrow for displaying large paintings; perhaps the width of two people laid end to end. Its narrowness and clutter only feel more claustrophobic when set against the high ceilings. The slim path through the room’s center makes you apprehensive about walking through. There are at least three large paintings and an abstract photograph that particularly catch your attention.

Various hulking pieces of furniture are pressed into four dark corners and distributed sporadically along the walls. Tacky bric-a-brac crowds every flat surface. Someone may have hoarded these misfit objects here to keep them from fouling the rest of the house.

An oversized mirror in a heavy wooden frame is casually propped against the door to the north, and you don’t see another way through.

Erica Newman isn’t on IFDB, but from googling she appears to be a musician (YerrikTRB is her pseudonym), and has done work including the soundtrack for Frog Fractions 2 along with Jenni Polodna, so that’s a pretty clear connection.

Anyway, we have another big mirror here too, huh? The Cragnes are susceptible to numerous sins, I’m sure, but vanity sure seems to loom large.

The decor and furniture are nothing to write home about (X BRIC-A-BRAC → “Chintzy houseware that may have been popular in the 1950s, but far too much of it.”) so let’s jump to the points of interest:

>x mirror
An oversized mirror in a heavy wooden frame. The bottom left corner is cracked and broken into large shards. A painting of a child is posed directly opposite the mirror, and glancing at your reflection, you can see her dispassionate gaze over your left shoulder.

A sliver of otherworldly moonlight is spilled onto the floor next to the mirror’s broken corner. On closer inspection, it is a mirror shard, glowing as if it were showing a private reflection of a moonsoaked world.

In case we need to top up on glass shards, the gallery has us covered.

>x child
This painting is unusually realistic. You can see that looking at it one time won’t reveal its full mystery.

The painting of the child faces the doorway to the west. Ah yes, you have seen this one before. Thomas Cooper Gotch, The Child Enthroned. A wise child sits on a wooden chair against a deep green background. The child herself is encased in sumptuous robes of blue and black velvet edged with wide gold lace. Her patterned red satin dress with a bright green sash speaks of opulence and taste. A halo, like the moon, rises from the child’s head. Although her neutral expression gives you no clue to her thoughts, this only invites you to imagine some emotion for her.

Gotch was a late Pre-Raph slash early Symbolist; I checked out the name-checked painting and it is indeed creepy AF.

In fact, let’s take another look:

>x child
On further examination, you notice that this is very much not the marble-skinned darling with delicate, square features and gold tresses from the original Gotch. This child clearly resembles you.

Um, actually, on maturer reflection, there are other paintings worth checking out too.

>x birds
This painting is unusually realistic. You can see that looking at it one time won’t reveal its full meaning.

Paintings of birds often focus on flight to evoke feelings of freedom, hope, and escape. This one feels like gravity extending its hold with physical hands. A label in the center of the stained green wooden frame reads

The Sparrow’s Nest
The Triumph of Nature

>x birds
The cowbird chick sits heavy and obvious on its adopted siblings. They must only be a few days old given their lack of feathers, but the cowbird is easily five times as large as the three other struggling chicks. The smaller chicks’ closed eyes are black orbs encased in thin skin. Their eyes will never open to the light. Their mouths open in different directions, with wide, pink gapes frozen in permanent, begging hunger.

The oversized cowbird is using one foot to steady itself on the edge of the grass nest, distorting the dry grass with its weight. A cracked eggshell is visible next to the cowbird chick, and the remains of a dried sparrow embryo and its yolk have dripped down the side of the nest and dried where the cowbird rests its claws.

I guess a cowbird is like a cuckoo, with eggs smuggled into other birds’ nests? This is pretty bleak.

Finally, there’s one more (I’m getting the names from typing X PAINTING and working through the disambiguation options, by the by):

This painting is unusually realistic. You can see that looking at it one time won’t reveal its depth.

An oversized painting in an elaborate gold-tinged wood frame. The painting depicts a large and haphazardly piled group of undercooked meats. In the center is a jumble of pinkish hams with crisped skins, darkened in thick lines where they have touched hot metal bars. The hams are freshly cut, exposing flesh dripping with juices traced through with blood. The liquids have congealed into a pool of white grease, surrounding the velvety black figs and turgid cornichons carefully placed around the meaty heap.

>x meat
A label in the bottom center of the frame reads, simply, ‘steamed meats.’ And they called these steamed meats despite the fact they are obviously grilled.

I was going to say this is super gross, but the revelation that it’s just a Simpsons “steamed hams” joke does something to undercut the revulsion.

There’s one more objet d’art:

>x photo
(the photograph)
A rather abstract photograph in black and white. You’re not sure what it represents. Perhaps a line drawing of a hand with an eye in the center?

When we look again, we see a new line in the location description:

You can see a shard and a photograph here.


>x shard
A sharply pointed triangular shard of the mirror that could fit nicely into your hand, like a primitive knife.

Anyone care to give the over/under on yet more self-harm?

>take it
As you stoop for the shard, you see a thin strip of paper that had been stuck in some of the broken pieces of the mirror.

>x strip
A scrap of paper providing more of a declaratory statement than a fortune. It reads “The answer is inside you.” On its reverse, it says “Full moon tonight; Beware the updog. Lucky numbers 4, 7, 69, 13.”

I must know the answer to this mystery!

>what’s updog
Not much. What’s up with you?


All this faffing about with mirrors reminds me I’ve been remiss about X MEing…

>x mirror
An oversized mirror in a heavy wooden frame. The bottom left corner is cracked and broken into large shards. A painting of a child is posed directly opposite the mirror, and glancing at your reflection, you can see her dispassionate gaze over your left shoulder.

The fortune cookie seems to think that you contain the answer.

Maybe the way out of this is not so straightforward as you think. Maybe this requires a bit more sharp thinking to cut through the confusion.

You gaze into the mirror, looking from yourself, to the painting that resembles you so, and back to yourself.

OK, geez, you had me at hello.

>cut me
You stare at your left wrist, and contemplate the shard in your right hand. Do you really have the nerve to do this? Are you certain this is what the message in the fortune meant?

Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it. DON’T THINK ABOUT IT

You take aim at your left wrist and stab. The pain is intense. More intense than you can bear. Before you black out, you grab the mirror frame, which pivots suddenly on the uneven floor. I hope I didn’t sever the tendons, you think.

In Rube-Goldberg fashion, the old behemoth crashes down a moment after you hit the ground. The mirror’s frame slides out and hits the credenza, which unloads its fragile junk onto the floor, and in doing so, nudges the standing chest, whose thin, wooden legs gave way under it. Like ugly, misshapen dominoes, the objects in the room fall into a kind of ordered destruction.

When you come to, you see that you are now surrounded by broken, useless, tacky chaos. Not even a single lidded beer stein or mini-pendulum clock made it through unscathed.

…sigh. I’m hoping Cragne Manor has an in-house blood bank, what with all the autoexsanguination we’re subjecting ourselves to.

This unlocks the door to the north and the coffee’s giving us the all-clear, so this seems an opportune moment to stop – after playing X ME catchup, of course. The foyer:

You’re bundled up in your black wool jacket, which is now a little dusty, and the
brick red sweater. Your hair is tied back to keep it out of the way.

(Said garments are implemented – seems a bit much but we’re in Vermont so our layering game has to be strong)


In the darkness all you really see is your own gloaming silouette. The effect is so
eerie you’re almost afraid to look again.

I do look again, and notice the text is randomized; I’m sticking with the one that gave me “gloaming”, per my commentary above.

Dining room:

The terrible vision has made you lose your appetite.


You look at yourself and are again taken aback by the fact that Prince wrote Manic

I am, it’s true!

Sitting room:

You are Naomi, and you look exactly as you should. Since your arrival in
Backwater, you’ve discovered it helps to remind yourself of this fact as often as you

Yes, sticking to our cover!


a shard of shattered carapace (smelling faintly of mildew)
a glass shard (smelling faintly of mildew)
a shard
Mama Hydra’s Deep Fried Ones
A Culinary Overview of Superstitions in the Miskaton Valley Region by S. Jarret Zornwharf (smelling faintly of mildew)
Hyper-Gastronomy, Exactness, and String Theory: a Theoretical Subdiscipline of Cooking and Baking by Chef Wheldrake
a pinch of snail paste
a pinch of pepper
a total of two grains of salt
a pinch of cardamom
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of cardamom
a pinch of turmeric (smelling faintly of mildew)
a pinch of garlic
a pinch of saffron
red-rimmed porcelain cups (smelling faintly of mildew)
red-rimmed porcelain plates
an Italian magazine cutting (smelling faintly of mildew)
De Zeven Testamenten van de Krijsende Zeeworm
a broken silver amulet
a pair of leather boots
a slip of paper (smelling faintly of mildew)
a pair of blue cloth slippers (smelling faintly of mildew)
a teapot (smelling faintly of mildew)
a calfskin coat (being worn)
a dull machete (smelling faintly of mildew)
a half-full styrofoam coffee cup
an old newspaper (smelling faintly of mildew)
a bottle of Pepto-Bismol (smelling faintly of mildew)
a metal flask (smelling faintly of mildew)
a moldy, waterlogged journal (smelling faintly of mildew)
a small blue journal (which you know is a journal because it says “Mein Journal” on the front)
a brass winding key
a familiar gold wristwatch
a plastic bubble (open but empty)
a glass jar containing an insect (smelling faintly of mildew)
a giant milkweed leaf (smelling faintly of mildew)
a label
a pull-string doll (smelling faintly of mildew)
The Modern Girl’s Divination Handbook – Volume Three (smelling faintly of mildew)
a postcard of Big Ben (smelling faintly of mildew)
the diary of Phyllis Cragne
a repaired page
a wad of cash
a cast iron spire (smelling faintly of mildew)
an antique locket (closed)
a Jansport backpack (open)
a hidden pocket (open but empty)
a key pocket (open but empty)
a book pocket (open but empty)
a side pocket (open but empty)
a trash pocket (closed)
a trolley schedule (smelling faintly of mildew)
a backpack features guide
Peter’s jacket (smelling faintly of mildew)
a library card (smelling faintly of mildew)
a grimy rock (smelling faintly of mildew)
a long hooked pole
a soggy tome (smelling faintly of mildew)
a book list (smelling faintly of mildew)
an employee ID card (smelling faintly of mildew)
some yellowed newspapers
a rusty piece of metal (smelling faintly of mildew)
a clipboard
loose bricks (smelling faintly of mildew)
an aluminum key
a black business card
a trophy for a dog race (smelling faintly of mildew)
a rusty flathead screwdriver (smelling faintly of mildew)
a bronze key green from age (smelling faintly of mildew)
a pair of garden shears (smelling faintly of mildew)
a gallon jug of white vinegar (smelling faintly of mildew)
some mildewed leather gloves
a key from an urn
a bronze urn (open but empty)
a silver urn (smelling faintly of mildew) (open but empty)
a copper urn (open but empty)
some rotten flowers
a pewter box (smelling faintly of mildew) (open but empty)
The Lives of the Roman Emperors
a torn notebook (smelling faintly of mildew)
a thin steel key (smelling faintly of mildew)
a piece of yellowed newsprint
an enormous dessicated rat corpse (smelling faintly of mildew)
a broken knife handle
a brass nameplate
a waterproof flashlight (smelling faintly of mildew)
a mallet (smelling faintly of mildew)
a pamphlet of home listings (smelling faintly of mildew)
an old paperback book (smelling faintly of mildew)
the first candle (smelling faintly of mildew)
the second candle (smelling faintly of mildew)
an Allen key (smelling faintly of mildew)
a tiny leather journal (smelling faintly of mildew)
an ornate metallic box (smelling faintly of mildew) (open but empty)
a large brass key (smelling faintly of mildew)
Daniel Baker’s note (smelling faintly of mildew)
a gold jacket (being worn)
a filthy rug (smelling faintly of mildew)
a well-dressed ghost (haunting you) (smelling faintly of mildew)
a trolley pass (being worn)
Ed’s coveralls (being worn)

Map (I’ve started a new, freestanding map area for the Cragne Manor interior – I’ve also decided to start tracking unexplored exits on the map due to the increasing complexity of the floor plan):

Cragne session 11.txt (169.1 KB)

cragne session 11 save.txt (59.8 KB)

Unfinished locations
  • Train Station Lobby: locked green door
  • Church Exterior: locked door to church
  • Shack Exterior: locked door to shack
  • Town Square: Navajo-language ring puzzle of doom
  • Backwater Library: book collectathon, obtain grimoire
  • Drinking Fountain: ??? something with the ghost?
  • Pub: steal the whetstone
  • Hillside Path: ??? something with the pile of iron and the ghost/spirit?
  • Meatpacking Plant: cleaver to cut open dog-thing’s stomach
  • Cragne Family Plot: locked crypt
  • Shambolic Shed: food for giant caterpiller
  • Greenhouse: whetstone for machete
  • Subterranean tunnel: locked door
  • Basement: timestamp for VHS tape?
  • Tiny office: locked door
  • Kitchen: locked door to cellar, maybe cook something nice?

I suspect this last post may have been cut off.

1 Like

If only we’d been able to keep it in our mouth one syllable longer!


I’m glad you liked it – I obviously did to, but I was still a little wary of burning like 500 words of writeup working through all the permutations!

I can only imagine what that must have been like – he certainly was an audacious thinker, but when the best-case scenario for him is that he had a depraved indifference to atrocities, he can’t help but taint a whole lot of American science by association.

Oh, of course – I’d had in my head that was an elder sign, but you’re 100% right that it was a hand with a triangle in it. I really should have replayed Anchorhead, or at least re-read a transcript, before starting this.

Yeah, finger slipped – thankfully it was the post button, not the cancel one!

If only we’d been able to keep it in our mouth one syllable longer!

Eh, I dunno, this way if/when we meet him, we can piss him off by calling him “Blehngakvaadnighdephod”, which is probably something the bullies taunted him with when he was the merest godling.


I just started to write up the next chapter, which opened with going north through the exit from the gallery we just opened up:


Rec Room (Zack Johnson)
The manor’s rec room is short for the manor’s recreation room. Even though it’s as old as the manor itself, it looks, as all rec rooms do, like it’s stuck in the 1970s.

The room is dominated by a pool table. Or maybe a billiards table, you were never really sure what the difference is. An old television sits atop a little wooden stand in front of a comfy-looking easy chair.

Doors lead south and east, and the north wall is covered entirely in built-in cabinets, whose glass doors lead, predictably, into their interiors.

There’s no other info on this author listed on IFDB, so I was about to shrug and write him off as another newbie, but decided to do a bit more due diligence and googled, which is how I learned this is the same Zack Johnson who developed the stick-figure MMO Kingdom of Loathing, and who’s also been accused of abuse by his ex-wife (accusations which he’s acknowledged as to at least some degree true, to my understanding based again just on cursory review of the Google results).

Given this context it wouldn’t feel especially good to just shrug and move on to my usual schtick of showcasing the room and making various jokes and japes in the margins – nor does the alternative of delivering an unasked-for homily about domestic abuse before moving on to said schtick.

So I think I’m just going to bottom-line things in this post, separate from the actual update, which I’ll come back to tomorrow. Those interested in the details can check out the transcript that I’ll attach as per usual, but there’s nothing useful I could figure out to do with the pool table or the TV, there’s one interesting cabinet on the north wall that contains board games, but it’s locked and the coffee says I need something from somewhere else to make progress so I just left through the door to the east.

Apologies for this downer of a non-update, though of course “inability to fully enjoy dumb video games” is quite far down on the list of the reasons why domestic abuse is bad.

Thankfully there’s a lot to look forward to in the update when it comes – Nitocris reaches the Music Room, for those who know what that means…