Let's Play: Cragne Manor

Chapter the Nineteenth: People of Backwater - We! Are! Narthex!

Last time, Nitocris cleaned up a bunch of outstanding puzzles back in Backwater – including the talky LARP quest to end all talky LARP quests – culminating in a little poem. This time, we’ll turn our attention to making something of the passel of keys we’ve picked up these last few chapters and see if we can cross some of those locked doors off the to-do list.

We’d previously established that the white key we picked up from the court area unlocked the crypt in the Cragne Family Plot, so we’ll start there:

(first opening the crypt door)

Family Crypt (Justin Melvin)
You are in a long-neglected, dusty, and surprisingly cold crypt, about the size of a garage. The walls are covered with a dark mold creeping from the floor, and the whole place smells unsettlingly like cured meat and leather. There are numerous plaques on the floor, and it is difficult to navigate the room without stepping on one of them. Your eyes are drawn to the only other object in the room: a large ornately decorated stone coffin. The only exit is the door you came in through leading back outside.

Justin Melvin is a person of mystery, so far as I can tell – beyond having no other info on IFDB, he’s also got two first names, which is already obscure and ambiguous!

In the course of chasing down whether he’s got a username on this forum, though, I discover something more horrifying that just about anything we’ve seen on the thread so far (horse-shoggoth and music room excepted). Turns out this board has a user feature you can use to look for folks, which I’d never checked out before, and here’s what that screen looks like:

Oh, that’s nice, looks like I’m on the top of the list since I’ve gotten the most likes this week – this thread has been lovely for that!

I wonder what the month numbers look like?

…I guess that makes sense, I was pretty active on the boards this month.

Geez, the whole year too? I did all those IF Comp reviews, plus Spring Thing and Parser Comp, but still, that’s a lot.

Oh good lord, I’ve only been active on this forum for like two years – how am I possibly above @mathbrush?

I, uh, maybe could stand to dial things back a little, is my takeaway here.

Anyway! Let’s get back to the crypt and never talk of this again.

We’re as good looking as ever, and there’s not much scenery here (I don’t think those plaques mentioned as being on the floor are actually implemented), beyond one rather unappealing element:

>x mold
Eww. Gross. You don’t even want to think about it.

I don’t!

On to the main event:

>x coffin
A large, gray stone coffin with a heavy-looking lid. It is carved with an intricate pattern of swirling lines, none of them intersecting at right angles. There is an inscription on the side.

>read inscription
In the dim light, it is difficult to make out the faded lettering, but you can see “HAR?AWELL CRAG?E, Icterine Al?erman of the Va?ieg?ted Cou?t.” It’s uncle Harvawell! You didn’t know him personally very well, but he was a local celebrity - he was a lead newscaster for one of the local TV stations. He passed away about five or six years ago. You aren’t sure exactly what he died of, and you missed his funeral. You feel a knot in your stomach. This wasn’t really the way you wanted to get close to him.

Oh no, not dear old Uncle Harv! He seems to have kept a much higher profile than the average member of the Court – I wonder what kind of mischief he got up to with his TV news perch…

“Icterine” is like yellowish. We’ve got the name, so now we’re just looking for the familiar. Pretty clear how we should go about that:

>open coffin
For some reason, you feel compelled to open the coffin. Your heart races. Why would you do that? Why do you want to disturb the departed? You don’t like this urge and try to ignore it.

Ha ha, Nitocris, you’re such a kidder.

>open coffin
You feel your hands being drawn to the lid of the coffin. You feel blood pulsing in your neck and ears. Your breathing becomes shallow, and you start to panic. Why are you trying to open this coffin? What kind of a person are you?

Stop, stop, you’re making me giggle!

>open coffin
You are really starting to lose it. This isn’t your body anymore. You are losing control of your hands and arms, as you feel yourself hefting the massive lid above the coffin. You feel the ache of your arms and back as you struggle to push it out of the way, all the time feeling like a stranger in your body, watching and feeling someone else’s actions. You don’t want to look down - you don’t want to look down - you look down inside the coffin, sweating. You see a skull, but not the rest of Uncle Harvawell’s body, along with a mummified rodent (a weasel, maybe?).

Huh, anyone have “weasel” on their bingo card? I’ll accept stoat or mink, too.

>x skull
You don’t know why you opened the coffin to find this skull, but here it is. You can see Uncle Harvawell’s broad jawline and high cheekbones on the skull - it really does look just like him. You remember him smiling from the 6pm news, and you shudder as you look at him in his terminal location, wondering what questions you would ask him. This scene is his final, interred view.

In Uncle Harvawell’s skull is a long wooden key.

We grab the long wooden key, then try for the skull:

>take skull
The thought of actually picking up poor Uncle Harvawell’s skull is more than you could bear.

Aww, too bad, I wanted to do the Hamlet thing.

>x weasel
You have no idea what happened to the rest of Uncle Harvawell, and you really have no idea why there is a mummified weasel with large yellow teeth next to his head.

Oh, we have an idea!

>take weasel
What a revolting idea.

>rub it
You rub the mummified weasel.

Who’s a good boy! Who’s watching over their master’s soul in the afterlife!

That’s all there is to do here, so we set out to see what that new key unlocks. It doesn’t take too long to find a winner:

Church Exterior (Andy Holloway)

>unlock door with long wooden key
You unlock the church doors.

Boom! We’re in.

(first opening the church doors)
Your reading glasses frost over at the edges. You feel a sharp pain from the cold spot on your shoulder, and feel like there’s a library book you–or Emmett, perhaps–hasn’t read yet from this location.

Ah, so that’s how the glasses work – not too spoilery, just a little nudge.

Church Lobby-Space (Hanon Ondricek)
This shallow space extends the width of the church. What do you call this? The church-lobby? Surely there’s a better name for it… Despite the gloominess, it’s not that unwelcoming. You’d guess renovations happened mid-1980s–the color scheme is that sponge-painted beigy-peach which goes great with industrial linoleum floor tiles. They checkerboard underfoot in grayish green and grayish white squares with dark speckles. A stamped powder-blue accent border provides a homey feel for church-lady potlucks.

The chapel proper opens to the west and a set of double doors leads out of the building.

Also good to note: two side by side openings lead in to restrooms. Now’s probably a good time to go–this place is quite a bit tidier than many of the locations you’ve visited, and who knows when you might next encounter a clean bathroom that isn’t filled with skeletons, or making scary noises, or holding a contraption that dispenses a key, or a portal to a pocket dimension full of snakes with baby-faces or something worse…

A collection of framed photos is arranged on one wall, and a woodstained ladder bolted nearby leads up through a square opening in the ceiling.

You know, you could use a quick restroom break about now.

Hey, we’ve finally found @HanonO’s place! I’m a fan of his big, funny, complex games, like The Cursèd Pickle of Shireton, and of course he’s also the stalwart moderator around here.

Lots to check in on here but as to that opening question of where we’re at, I was raised Catholic so I can tell you that this place is likely called the atrium, or if we’re getting really hardcore, the narthex.

As to that parade of horribles about what kind of stuff you can find in a bathroom: LOL. We’ve been to the meatpacking plant bathroom, so all your threats are empty.

Let’s check out the simpler location description when we type L again:

This shallow space extends the width of the church. Despite the gloominess, it’s not that unwelcoming except for the eye-watering pattern of industrial linoleum floor tiles. They checkerboard underfoot in grayish green and grayish white squares with dark speckles, stopping only at the margin marked by a wall border at waist level.

I’m highlighting this because I was just reading a post of Hanon’s in the thread about managing noun creep, where he said this: “if it’s [an] ordinary [location] give it one unique detail to be memorable.”

I see what you’re doing here!

>x linoleum
The floor expands underneath; a bewildering checkerboard of pale green and white linoleum tiles.

>x border
An endless repeating design of blue-stamped geese that alternately honk “Welcome” and “Jesus Saves” runs around the room at belly-button height.

Ooof. With all apologies to my Protestant friends, give me marble and stained glass any day over this approachable BS.

>x photos
Black and white photos of generations of religious folk and church social gatherings. Included are four or five class photos of students in tweed blazers, pressed slacks, and plaid skirts. The newest is inscribed 1978.

A yellowed newspaper article in a more modern frame catches your attention.

Huh, was this like a Catholic church, with a Catholic school?

>x class photos
I only understood you as far as wanting to examine student faces.

>x student faces
Vague monochrome faces with feathered hair. Curious… One specific student’s face is obscured with red wax…or–scribbled red lipstick?

>clean it
You only succeed in smearing the lipstick a little more.


>put vinegar on lipstick
Putting things on student faces would achieve nothing.

Aww, come on, I’ve been carting along the vinegar this long, give me the win!

>x yellowed newspaper
(the yellowed newspapers (smelling faintly of mildew))
The paper is dated, July 26, 1970. The headline reads “Fulvous Alderman of the Variegated Court Found Dead.”

Below the headline is a photo of someone you assume is Fulvous dressed in all black with black tie and black top hat. He is standing in front of an old church and strangely enough, there’s a duck at his feet, almost posing.

The article reads, “Fulvous Alderman of the Variegated Court was found dead yesterday. His body was found by an unnamed man who was exploring a remote area when he came across an abandoned white house. When the young man entered through a back window to explore the home, he found the body of Fulvous in the attic. He was slumped over a table with what appears to be a ceremonial dagger in his back. Other than the knife and some dull orange duck feathers scattered around the room, no other clues were found regarding the culprit or the motive.”

A faint smell of mildew emanates from them.

Oh, blarg, this was an old article – and I’d actually already crammed a different bit of yellowed newsprint into the junk pocket to avoid a disambiguation issue. Now that we reread this, the incongruous duck thing makes a lot more sense!

(Also, whoever wrote this seems to have thought the dude’s name was “Fulvous”)

>x yellowed newspaper article
(the framed newspaper article)
From the Backwater Gazette, March 8, 1984. The faded print is hard to read, but the article details the Backwater Historical Society renovation of the narthex of the church after a fire five years prior. School, library, and gymnasium incinerated to the dirt foundation in an unexplainable inferno during the 1979 Maple Harvest Dance… 166 students, faculty, and neighbors tragically lost…no remains identifiable… The church itself suffered only minor damage in what surviving parishoners describe as a “divine miracle”…

Haha, yes! This is great!

Not the “miracle” or the magic arson (sorry, “unexplainable inferno”) – I’m excited at the confirmation that we’re in a narthex! I’m generally a nerd for church architecture terms, but I especially like this one.

If you’ll forgive an anecdote: I’ve mentioned in the previous update that I’ve played a bunch of White Wolf roleplaying games, none more so than Mage: The Ascension, which is a pomo game of wizards-as-ideologues punching each other with magic(k). One of the conceits of the setting is that groups of mages are organized as formal cabals, with formal names, while another is that said groups will be made up of wildly disparate folks. In one of the longest-lasting of the campaigns I played in, where the pitch was basically “magic grad students”, we had a couple Harry Potter style wands-and-alchemy wizards, a nihilistic goth, an exchange student from an alternate dimension that’d been set up as a generic fantasy novel, an order-from-chaos computer scientist, and a social worker on a mission from God.

Coming up with a name that worked for all these folks was, uh, challenging – and we never quite managed to land on one – but l was pretty excited when I realized “Narthex” could kinda work: like half the party was Catholic, and since it’s the entryway to the cathedral, it worked as like a spatial metaphor for the characters graduating from their apprenticeships and approaching the real work of magic. Plus it sorta sounds like a heavy metal band, which is badass.

This idea was roundly hooted down, because of course it was, but still: Narthex.

Er, anyway, we’re pretty much done here, and I’ve been detecting a slight impetus to visit the bathroom, so let’s do that:


Women’s Restroom
The women’s restroom is tidy as church facilities go. There is only one way out, unless you count the bathroom stall door reflected in the mirror above the sink.

It appears someone has discarded a tube of lipstick on the sink.

There’s no author listed, so I’m assuming we’re still in Hanon’s room.

>x mirror
It’s you, Naomi Cragne, staring back from the mirror. Good-looking as ever, if maybe a bit frazzled from recent events. Right then. You look focused, confident; your lips are a bit pale, but what can you do?

Oh right, we haven’t done this yet:

>x me
You stop and take stock: yes, you are still Naomi Cragne despite everything that has happened and who you may or may not have been up to this point. Your husband needs you to help him, and you are bound and determined to do exactly that, no matter what horrors lie in wait for you going forward.

You are wearing a pair of reading glasses (smelling faintly of mildew), a battered yellow JogMaster, a label (smelling faintly of mildew), a calfskin coat, a trolley pass and Ed’s coveralls.

You are also lugging around a whole lot of stuff.

Oh man, we totally are. I like this incorporation of what we’re wearing, too!

>x door
The flimsy stall partitions afford a modicum of privacy in a public restroom–you can’t see over or under them.

>open it
You open the bathroom stall, revealing no one.

I’m less concerned with whether anyone is there and more whether anyhorse is lurking.

>x lipstick
The lipstick is practically new and appears to never have been used. Score. The label names it “Saucy Siren”–which of course is a dark shade of red.

Might as well give this a try – we haven’t touched up our makeup in quite a while:

>wear it
You meticulously apply the lipstick mph…mpoph… You should check it out in the mirror to make sure you didn’t get any on your teeth.

Sure, why not:

>x mirror
Mmm, luscious red lips–ones that total fox Brandon Cragne might want to kiss…that is, if she played her cards right. Otherwise, the same mousy brown hair pulled back in clips, the same lame grey tweed school uniform. The same pallid complexion. Heavy sigh.

Wait, Brandon, not Peter? And wait x2, “lame grey tweed school uniform”? Ruh roh.

(To be continued, probably later tonight)