Let's Play: Cragne Manor

I also want to see what happens if we cut out the earworm.

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Chapter the Third – Hell is Other Items

The people have spoken: this earworm’s not getting up again. Restoring back to before we left Milkweed, let’s put our athame to use.

>cut tendril with athame
As the imaginary blade of the athame touches the tendril attaching the earworm to your brain, the tendril snaps, with a sound like a plucked harp string.

The earworm vanishes with a sound like a crack cross a pane of glass.

And here’s the consequence:

>sing
You try to think of song to cheer yourself up, but nothing comes to mind.

I can’t help feeling that we chose poorly – but as it turns out, this was rather a Hobson’s choice, because even if you don’t slice off the earworm, it silently vanishes once you leave the location (sharp-eyed readers of the thread might have noticed, as I did not, that the earworm didn’t subsequently show up in our inventory) - so we’d be adventuring Chumbawambaless regardless.

Democracy in this thread having been shown to be a hollow joke, we resume our explorations. The two paths open to us were either to head east from the church exterior into the town, or northeast from the churchyard into the forest. Nitocris is a bit of an introvert, I think, so let’s start with the latter:

The Churchyard (David Jose)

A dark pine forest crowds against the wrought iron fence to the northeast. You might be able to forge a path between its trees.

>ne

The Dim Recesses of the Forest (Jacqueline A. Lott Ashwell)
Branches scramble overhead, straining toward one another in a bid to blot out the sky. Mercifully, light manages to filter down through an opening in the canopy above a small pond. Paths slither away into the forest to the north, southwest, and southeast.

You pause a moment to let the hushed peacefulness of this place soak in – a welcome relief from the unsettling events of the day.

We have forged a path! Into a forest intersection written by IF Comp organizer and ClubFloyd maven Jacqueline Lott Ashwell. Let’s look around.

>x branches
You gaze up. Were it not for the pond, you get the feeling these branches would weave themselves together to plunge these woods into near-total darkness.

A flurry of dead leaves goes skittering along the ground, swirling past you in the wind.

>x pond
Your reflection stares back at you, tree branches framing your face. You can discern nothing beneath the surface of the black water. The pond might be a foot deep, or a hundred feet deep. Or bottomless.

For a moment, the wind dies down. Leaves on the ground come to rest.

I like the quietly lyrical quality of the descriptions here, which is a good reminder I need to get around to playing Ashwell’s Fire Tower one of these days.

>drink pond
In the interest of self-preservation, you think better of drinking from the pond.

>x leaves
Leaves are everywhere. Some float, withered and aimless on the surface of the black water, the rest carpet the forest floor.

The wind momentarily stirs up a pile of leaves.

>search leaves
You feel no need to collect any leaves, but you poke at them with your foot, uncovering a flat stone.

This is a circumstance where I don’t mind SEARCH being independent of X, since it’s clear some additional rooting around might turn up something initially invisible.

>x stone
A flat stone with rounded edges. You eye the surface of the pond speculatively.

>take it
Taken.

Somewhere in the distance, you hear a mourning dove’s plaintive song. From above, a leaf floats slowly toward the ground.

>listen
You look up, into the trees, and listen. Wind occasionally moves through the branches. Now and then, a dove calls.

The wind picks up again for a moment, and a few leaves fall from above. One of the leaves settles in your hair. You disentangle the leaf and toss it to the ground.

I like that the dove’s cry gets picked up by LISTEN – you don’t always see that attention to detail. I also dig the way the ambient events direct the player to the leaves. I wonder if we can follow that one leaf that got tangled in our hair?

>x leaf
(the giant milkweed leaf)
A giant milkweed leaf, curled in such a way that it could cling to your face like a mask. It even has two milk-ringed holes for your eyes.

:angry: And disambiguation hell begins – I can only imagine how bad this is going to get.

It doesn’t seem like the world’s smartest idea, but it’s pretty clear what we should do next:

>tempt fate
You weigh the flat stone in the palm of your hand for a moment or two, then decide to see if you can make it skip across the pond: you wind your arm back and fling the rock at an angle near-parallel to the water. It unfortunately hits the surface at an imperfect angle, makes a sad plop sound, and disappears from view. You sigh.

All of the sudden, the forest goes quiet. Completely quiet. No wind, no doves, no sound at all.

You are frozen in the stillness, too scared to move.

(That was actually SKIP STONE, of course)

We’re OK, right?

>listen
The unsettling silence continues. It’s almost as if the forest is waiting for something to … to happen.

From the pond, a slimy ivory tentacle emerges, feeling its way toward you through the dead leaves.

You are transfixed, and powerless with fear.

We’re not OK! We’re not OK!

>x tentacle
It is as if you are observing from outside your own body: you watch as the eburnean appendage begins wrapping itself slowly around your ankle.

Suddenly, you are back inside your skin, and feel yourself being dragged toward the pond! You kick at the clammy white arm with your free foot, and desperately dig your fingers into the earth in an attempt to prevent the inevitable.

The surface of the once-placid pond now churns violently.

I don’t learn a new word often, but today I did! Eburnean means “made of ivory”, apparently.

Er, in the meantime we’re being dragged to our death, though. Where’s an imaginary athame when you need it?

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

The idea that there’ll be a later seems rather optimistic at this juncture. Maybe it’s got a weak spot?

>x tentacle
To your horror, you are pulled beneath the surface!

All is dark. All is still. An unearthly calm consumes you. You cannot breathe, but you do not seem to care. You blink, unable to make out any shapes in the black water.

Then, from the depths, an ivory shape emerges: a many-tentacled creature. The cephalopod floats toward you, coming eye to eye, and you sense something… maybe sadness?..

Oh, wow.

>greet cephalopod
Gently, two white tentacles place a delicate silver chain around your neck. Before you have time to express surprise or gratitude, the pond kraken carries you to shore. You inhale, thankful for the air, and turn back toward the pond just in time to see the last of the creature slip back beneath the surface.

Wow, what a twist – that was awesome! I really like octopi, though I guess this was a squid. Did you know octopi are tool-users, like us, but as invertebrates have a distributed nervous system that means that their consciousness is probably profoundly different from our own? Like, it seems like their higher-order nervous functions can delegate a task like “turn over that rock” to an arm, but the nervous tissue in the arm has considerable autonomy in how it interprets that instruction, so the the octopus – to the extent we can talk about the octopus – maybe be surprised by the result. It’s a sort of federal version of consciousness. I strongly recommend Other Minds on this, it’s a totally mind-blowing book.

Back to the game, we got a necklace from our fairy kraken-mother, right?

>x necklace
The locket and chain are silver, surprisingly untouched by the murky depths from which they came. The front of the locket bears a tiny embossed likeness of a kraken. The initials E.C. are engraved on its back.

>open locket
You open the antique locket, revealing a tintype.

>x tintype
A portrait of a young but stern-looking woman with dark locks and darker eyes has been placed within the locket. The photograph is, to your amazement, dry and in good nick, despite how it came to be in your possession. You idly wonder if there’s anything hidden behind it.

It’s no “eburnean”, but “in good nick” is a nice turn of phrase too.

Let’s follow the gentle suggestion to look behind the tintype:

>look behind tintype
As you handle the photo, you notice something on its reverse. The handwriting is so small! You marvel at the clarity of the feminine script, which you are just able to make out. It reads:

To my Eliakim,
Eburnean Alderman of
the Variegated Court.
I would follow thee
to the depths of Hell.
- Faythe

Looks like I’m not the only one who thinks that word is totally rad.
I’m guessing there’s eventually going to be a puzzle requiring me to match Cragne family members to their offices in this cult/anti-cult (hopefully we’ll figure out which it is at some point, too).

This is a nice keepsake so I decide to tidy up, but first I am seized by the imp of the perverse:

>put all in locket
waterproof flashlight: The waterproof flashlight does not fit within the locket.

Nothing else does either, so good catch Jacqueline! Some author somewhere in this thing I’m sure has created an unpoliced container I can overstuff to comedic effect, but it won’t be today.

>close locket
You close the antique locket.

The coffee confirms that we’re done here, but let’s try one last thing:

>swim
There is absolutely no freakin’ way you’re going anywhere near that water.

Yeah let’s not push our luck.

My attempts to move on are momentarily confounded by a slight mismatch in descriptive text – the location says there are exits to the N, SW, and SE, but when I tried X N to get a sense of what’s ahead, I was told the exits were actually to the N, NE, and SE. Experimentation quickly clears up that we’re not in a maze and it’s the former that’s right, thankfully. We’ll try north first.

The Old Well (Reed Lockwood)
The trees here gather, black with wet; glimmering fingers hung with ragged matter, huddling beneath a cold and gently weeping sky. Beneath your feet, the damp red felt of rotting leaves slopes down toward a still, murky puddle. Nearby is a well, capped off with crumbling cement. A broken-down section of brick wall waits for raindrops to fall along its spine, and an old, half-dead oak straddles an angular boulder studded with quartz. A path through the forest leads south.

You can see a wooden sigil here.

Reed Lockwood is also a first-time author, looks like. They have a played-games list on IFDB that contains a lot of classic parser titles from the late 90s and aughts, for the most part, so perhaps we’ll have a classic vibe here… At any rate, this is another nicely atmospheric location; I like “damp red felt.”

(I mean qua image; qua reality seems ick ick ick)

>x trees
You can’t see any such thing.

>x leaves
You can’t see any such thing.

>x sky
You can’t see any such thing.

Some missing scenery – I guess that’s an older-school touch, back when authors had to be more conscious of memory usage! Here’s something that’s actually implemented, though:

>x puddle
A still, murky puddle sits beneath the tree. The slightest of ripples disturb its surface. There’s something a little odd about it.

Slightly vague, but let’s investigate:

>search puddle
You find nothing of interest.

>look in puddle
You find nothing of interest.

>drink it
There’s nothing suitable to drink here.

>touch puddle
You feel nothing unexpected.

>put flashlight in puddle
That can’t contain things.

>smell puddle
You smell nothing unexpected.

Well that was singularly unedifying.

>x tree
It’s an old, twisted oak tree grown over a granite boulder here. Many of its branches are rotting away, yet it clings to life. It has a hollow knothole at about eye level, and a large, prominent root juts from its base.

>x root
Just a thck [sic] root sticking out from the base of the tree. Or is it? This might require a closer look.

Once again, I try poking and prodding at the root everyhow I can think of:

>look closely at root
You can’t see any such thing.

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

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

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

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

>put head right up next to root
That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work somewhere later.

>worry that the root is secretly a tentacle
That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work somewhere later.

>remember I’m supposed to X ME
That verb doesn’t work here, or, at least, not right now, but it might work somewhere later.

>x me
As good-looking as ever.

You bear the trauma of a woman who has been eye to eye with an eburnean pond kraken.

Ooh, nice detail! (We were also as good looking as ever in the previous location, so I didn’t show it off).

>touch root
You feel nothing unexpected.

>eat root
That’s plainly inedible.

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

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

>hit it
Violence isn’t the answer to this one.

Nitocris is getting frustrated here. There was a knothole in addition to the root called out in the tree description, so maybe that will be more cooperative:

>x knothole
You peer into the knothole and find an oilcloth parcel. You pick it up.

>x parcel
An old rectangular parcel, oilcloth wrapped with twine. Given its size and shape, you’re guessing it’s a book.

>open it
You open the parcel, discovering a moldy journal and what looks to be a strange little battery. You toss the wrappings away. They look biodegradable enough. Indeed, they look like they’ve already begun biodegrading.

Ha!

>x journal
Which do you mean, the moldy, waterlogged journal or the shabby journal?

:angry:

>moldy
It’s heavily damaged by the elements. You can make out the letters “-AGNE” on the front cover.

>read moldy
You riffle through the pages; only short passages are still legible:

“… circular golden prosthesis seems to have chosen Mabel … doctor said he can’t remove it without harming the child …”

“… Mabel spends long hours examining stumps and rocks in the woods … and I are most concerned. Mabel’s stories of fairies and HIDDEN LANDS seem more than childish fancy”

(There’s a long section of the book here which is ruined and entirely illegible, although you can make out diagrams and the faded, troubling outlines of strange shapes)

"… constructed the sigil out of sculpted and varnished wood after many … Mabel instructs me on where it should be placed … spirits she is in communication with have constructed various devices at her command … creatures I have dubbed microphids … "

“… Clara still doesn’t believe; threatened to get Pastor Crowell involved … able to dodge him so far … quit my position at …”

“… very concerned but there is no body … up to seven successful SUMMONINGS that have remained docile … we will never know, and quite frankly these studies are more important than that … Each creature must process through three ARCHES, through three HABITATS and stages of development before finally maturing through the ARCH and SIGIL … special GLUE created by that one created via the sequence ->FOREST->(illegible)->CLIFFS …”

“… at Clara’s insistence I have written to the University … fake name … one we have dubbed Moppy is friendly enough and a loyal companion to Mabel …”

“… siphoning off the rest of the inheritance … haven’t seen her in a while … sent an officer of the law to fetch Mabel, but Moppy took care of him …”

(another long damaged section)

“… only Tall Pete is left … lay Mabel in a grave beside Moppy … TERRIBLE LIZARD-BIRD was raised up from the OCEAN - is still out there somewhere …”

“… now I wear the PROSTHESIS; now I can see everything. … breached the walls of perception … I am PRODDING the EGG MACHINE on the QUARTZ OUTCROPPING … dozens of them GATHER to PROTECT me from the LIZARD BIRD … PULLED the ROOF clear off my SHELTER …”

And that’s it. There’s no more. Well, you suppose you didn’t actually expect the author to keep writing right up until the point of his death, but you’re a little disappointed.

A nice little dig at Lovecraftian fiction there, where narrators are often admirably committed to recording the gross bodily harm about to be visited upon them right until the last instant (though again, Lovecraft was far less guilty of this than some of his followers, notably perennial whipping-boy August Derleth).

Regardless, this all seems quite disquieting – poor little Mabel! Two hypotheses: first, we need that prosthetic to properly look at the odd-looking scenery here, and second, said prosthetic is the golden eyepiece currently locked up in a railway-platform vending machine. We currently have no way of testing these, but hopefully that will change soon.

We didn’t just get tasty tasty knowledge, here, though:

>x batter
You can’t see any such thing.

>x battery
(the small, rectangular battery)
A slick golden rectangle, slightly bowed, with contacts at one end marked “+” and “-”.

A yummy typo – perhaps Nitocris is getting hungry. Can we do anything useful with this battery?

>put battery in flashlight
(the small, rectangular battery in the waterproof flashlight)
The small, rectangular battery is too large to fit into the flashlight.

Doesn’t look like it. We’ll keep an eye out for someplace that might be needed.

>x wall
Damp bricks, decades old. They are not quite right, somehow.

>x boulder
A jagged gray boulder leans here among the trees, coming to about your waist. It would be largely unremarkable but for the fact that it is straddled by the twisted old oak. A ghostly patch of quartzite graces one corner of it.

>x quartz
Pure, translucent white. Something is a little bit off about it.

Continuing the trend.

We’ve done all this and haven’t even gotten to the two most interesting things here:

>x well
An old well cap made of crumbling cement emerges from the forest floor here. Two wrought-iron handles, pitted with rust, emerge from the top. A padlock, also rusted, holds it closed.

>x padlock
It’s rusted tight, but still solid.

>break it
Though rusted, it still proves to be very durable.

>x sigil
A circular wooden frame is embedded in the ground here, organic arcs of wood carved with strange symbols. Though surrounded by rot, it is entirely intact despite its apparent age.

I can’t make any headway with either of these, so I’m guessing we really need that prosthesis.

>x coffee
The clouds in your cup form the engine of a train. Modes of transportation mean that your current environment presents challenges that can only be overcome by seeking fresh perspectives elsewhere until you’re ready to return.

Yeah, seems right – I think there’s a lot more to dig into here.

(This is about halfway through the chapter; more to come soon)

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Ah yes, the proliferation of reading material! Once again I am tickled by the numerous ways authors went about implementing the text—one giant lump like this, the random sampling of the commonplace book, the sequential progression of Aunt Phyl’s diary, etc. This dissimilar approach to solving a common problem would bother me in a more formal collaboration, but in the more exquisite corpse format we’ve got here, it’s a delight.

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We head back to the recesses of the forest and try the last path out, to the southeast:

Shack Exterior (Michael Lin)
You enter a clearing, the earth barren and the air heavy with mist. A low windowless wooden shack dominates the area. Sitting by the shack is a wooden painted doll, clockwork mechanisms visible in its joints. It’s startlingly lifelike.

The woods are to the northwest, while that godforsaken town is to the southeast.

On the ground, just out of the doll’s reach, lie some loose scraps of paper.

IFDB thinks Michael Lin helped write Legend Entertainment’s 1992 adaptation of Frederik Pohl’s Gateway, but that’s only because it can’t distinguish Lin from Lindner; he’s another new author.

Also this doll seems much creepier than Pully, so her status as Best Sidekick remains secure.

>x mist
The air is foggy here. There’s nothing to be done about it.

…is there usually?

You better believe we’re saving the creepy doll for last.

>x shack
A simple wooden shack, with a closed door in it.

>x door
A wooden door, with a keyhole by the handle.

>x keyhole
You see nothing special about the linKeyhole.

I know it’s poor form to show off minor bugs like this, but I enjoy the fact that if you shift the intended spacing you can read this as the linkey-hole.

>open door
It seems to be locked.

>unlock door
What do you want to unlock the Shack Door with?

>verve
You can’t see any such thing.

Worth a shot.

>x paper
Three scraps of paper, with various handwritten words on them. You can’t read the contents from here.

Figure it’s a 50/50 shot of the doll coming to life and murdering us when we go for the papers – let’s roll the dice!

>take papers
Taken.

Phew!

>read it
Three scraps of paper, with various handwritten words on them. You suspect that they may form a complete page if you reassemble them.

>reassemble scraps
With some experimentation, you rearrange the pieces back into a single page. They seal together, as if by magic. You now hold a repaired page.

“As if by magic”? Man, Nitocris sets a high bar, this seems like magic to me.

X PAGE and READ PAGE get us the same snippet:

A complete page, grimy yet strangely untorn. It reads: “I must have rest. My senses deceive me into thinking she can see me, hear me.”

I don’t think we can put this off anymore:

>x doll
(the clockwork doll)
A little doll of a girl. She’s sitting at a little writing desk, with a book in front of her, firmly held underneath her arms. In one hand is a feather quill pen; at the other is an inkwell. Her eyes seem to bore through your pocket to where you’re keeping the page. As if she wants to see what’s written there.

How adorable yet threatening.

>x desk
An ornate writing desk of fine stained wood.

>x book
Which do you mean, The Dollmaker’s Journal, the moldy, waterlogged journal, the shabby journal, the diary of Phyllis Cragne, the postcard of Big Ben or The Modern Girl’s Divination Handbook – Volume Three?

From Disambiguation Hell’s heart I stab at thee.

>x dollmaker’s
A simple leatherbound journal, daubed with wayward paint splotches. A sticker on the cover bears the insignia of the Backwater Public Library.

>read it
(first taking The Dollmaker’s Journal)
The doll’s grip is far too strong.

You can’t read The Dollmaker’s Journal from here.

The chill behind you intensifies, and you feel like you’re being watched.

Oh yeah, we’re still being haunted by that faint chill!

>x chill
A chill emanates from behind you, fading as you turn.

This all continues to be absolutely fine.

>x pen
An ordinary feather quill, hovering ready above the page.

>x inkwell
An ordinary inkwell filled with crimson liquid of unknown and unknowable provenance.

…is that blood?

>smell ink
You smell nothing unexpected.

>taste ink
You taste nothing unexpected.

Well given the buildup I expect that it’s blood, so I guess that’s confirmation.

>show page to doll
(the clockwork doll)
The doll springs to life with the whirring of hidden gears and mechanisms. Her eyes dart between the page and the book in front of her. Her quill moves from inkwell to paper and back again, copying the page’s contents into the book. Finishing the passage with a terminal stroke of the pen, the doll’s shoulders move up, then down, as if taking a breath. Her open hand clumsily raises one cover and pushes it over, closing the book.

She pushes it in your direction until it tumbles to the ground.

Eek!

>x dollmaker’s
A simple leatherbound journal, daubed with wayward paint splotches. A sticker on the cover bears the insignia of the Backwater Public Library.

Frost lines the edges of the library insignia.
>take it

Taken.
The doll begins to shudder and glow with heat. After a moment, the shaking stops, and the doll’s head and hands sag, lifeless.

Whatever’s going on here, I don’t like it.

On the plus side, another book!

>x insignia
Two back-to-back crescent moons joined by an eye looking down at an open book.

Frost lines the edges of the library insignia of The Dollmaker’s Journal.

>touch it
You can’t really do anything with the insignia separately from what it’s on.

>touch book
Which do you mean, The Dollmaker’s Journal, the moldy, waterlogged journal, the shabby journal, the diary of Phyllis Cragne, the postcard of Big Ben or The Modern Girl’s Divination Handbook – Volume Three?

:angry:

>dollmaker’s
You feel nothing unexpected.

Traditionally the important part of a book is what’s written in it, so let’s give that a shot. We get one line at a time, so condensing them:

She is finally done. My finest clockwork creation. So wonderfully lifelike.

I’ve yet to decide what I should call her.

I must have rest. My senses deceive me into thinking she can see me, hear me.

What has she become? Is my child now my gaoler?

I think I’ve managed to lock her safely away. I only hope tha(the rest of the page is unintelligible)

(The remaining pages are nothing but a mess of crusted blood.)

How predictable, and unhygienic. Unlike the slacker who wrote the moldy journal, our memoirist here appears to have kept writing up until the moment of death, so good job there.

The doll is inert now, but her grip still prevents us from taking the pen or inkwell. The coffee says there’s more to do here but we’ll need something from elsewhere first – I’m guessing the key to the shack – so at long last it’s time to enter the town of Backwater. Rather than go straight in from here, we’ll circle back to the church exterior and go east:

Church Exterior (Andy Holloway)

To the east the road narrows to cross a small bridge into the village proper

>e

Town square, Backwater, VT (Marco Innocenti)
The first thing you notice, when entering the open yards of the town square, is the soft breeze that relentlessly caresses the buildings. It is so unlike the warm, salty air you were used to back home that you finally realize how long your trip has been, and how far removed you are now from everything you once knew.

The large, hexagonal-shaped square is paved with big, white stones, polished by rain and wind over the decades; around it, low red-brick buildings look like watching peasants. One single street leaves the square to the north, while less accommodating paths lead west, in the direction of a towering church, and southwest.
Due east, an iron bridge crosses the river, and southeast, a walkway leads down to its bank.

The swollen, slate-colored clouds that blanket the sky are reflected in the shiny, circular shape embellishing the center of the square, muttering ominous portents amongst themselves.

Ominous portents, you murmur to yourself.
Since that day, twenty years ago, when you first read them in a Lovecraftian novel during that uneventful summer vacation, you’ve been waiting for the occasion to use these words yourself. Another cold, harsh gust of wind interrupts you before you can decide whether this was a coincidence worth being happy… or scared about.

A man is leaning on the bridge rail, staring intensely at you with his only eye.

Wow, a lot going on here! First, the bridge has moved again. Second, Marco Innocenti is an established author, probably best known for the Andromeda sci-fi games, which have seen some sequels and prequels made by other authors. I haven’t played any of them, so I’m not sure what to expect. Third, this cloud’s reflection is the most ominous thing we’ve seen in twenty years, which given that just tonight we’ve run afoul of a giant squid, two and a half creepy dolls, and a haunted toilet, means it must be pretty metal.

>x breeze
You fill your lungs, but to no avail. The wind is too unsubstantial to cling to your nostrils.

>x buildings
The houses, all alike, form a low wall (for a building, that is) that form a wobbly hexagon around the square. The red bricks have been polished by rain and wind over the ages and now appear like polyps in human tissue. No window shows signs of life, and many of the blinds are either closed or barred from the inside.

You wonder where everyone’s gone.

“Like polyps in human tissue”??? Geez, Nitocris, stop creeping out the nice readers.

>x stones
You realize how the square is probably a perfect hexagon, such an uncommon feature in rural towns. The big, white stones forming its pavement are interrupted in the center by an odd… manhole, a circular shape representing an emblem of some sorts.

>x manhole
The big emblem, one yard wide, is embedded in the center of the square like a manhole. The surface looks golden, although you seriously doubt it is anything more than pyrite. Its three rings surround a central circle tightened by bird claws with a single triangular mark pointing northeast. The rings themselves are bedecked by a series of symbols (outer to inner, then clockwise from north):

BLACKBIRD |TREE      |SPARROW   |CUBE      |WOMAN     |FEATHER
DAAN      |SHI       |AAK'EE    |HAI       |TLÈÈ      |JI
PIG       |EYE       |WOODPECKER|CROSS     |FISH      |EAGLE

I could be wrong, but folks, I think we’ve found a puzzle.

We can rotate any of the rings independently:

>turn outer
You maneuver the outer ring and it turns one step clockwise with almost no friction.

… but without any idea about what combination we should be aiming for blind experimentation doesn’t seem likely to be that productive. We can examine all the constituent parts but that doesn’t do very much. That symbol point northeast is interesting, maybe suggesting the combination is somewhere thataway?

>x clouds
(the swollen, slate-colored clouds)
They stay there, muttering ominous portents amongst themselves. Really.

OK I take back my snark, this is super creepy!

>x bridge
Large enough to let a single car pass through, the bridge is arched like a live fishing pole. Leaning on the bridge rail, a man is demanding attention.

>x man
Tall and slender, the one-eyed man reminds you of someone you knew back in your hometown: a fisherman with as many stories in his pockets as years on his back, who went by the name of Captn Squinter. He used to know a lot of tales about tormented ships… or at least he was good at making them up. He vanished years ago in unknown circumstances.

Between that and the mention of the warm salty air that reminds us of back home, it sounds like we grew up in a salt-water fishing port, which per Milkweed would have been somewhere in the Midwest. Noneuclidean!

I remember to X ME before chatting up the man:

You can imagine your grey eyes are all but glittering under this grey sky. You just wish Peter were here to caress you on thinking this.

Eyes on the prize, Nitocris! Though I guess Peter is the prize, inasmuch as we’re trying to find him, so I suppose that’s all right then.

(I just realized I forgot to X ME by the shack. We’ll do that before we wrap up).

>greet man
He bows his head dramatically, acknowledging your salute.

“Mrs Cra-gnee, welcome to Backwater. He’s been waiting for you.”

Oh wow, I somehow hadn’t internalized that since we’re married to Peter, we’re also a Cragne. Nitocris Cragne, Nitocris Cragne – still sounds weird!

One bit of formatting that didn’t come through in this saved transcript is that some of the dialogue here is bolded, which I eventually figured out was flagging keywords to ask about. So if I ask about something odd, that’s why.

>ask man about backwater
“What do you know about this place?” you ask.

“This place? You mean Backwater?” You nod. “Oh, it is just a small town, the likes of which you can find everywhere in America. In rural America, I’d say. It’s not about the town, anyway. It’s about the magic. Isn’t it?”

>ask man about magic
“Magic?”

The man smiles, providing no further insight.

>ask man about cragne
He glances at the diary of Phyllis Cragne with his good eye and then returns a snort.

:angry:

>ask man about me
“Are you staring at me,” you ask. “Or am I imagining things?”

“Oh, well, you came to the right place, Madam, if you seek imagination.”

>ask man about him
“Who are you?” you ask.

The man smiles, as if you have asked the most trivial thing. “I’m a man made by the mountains, as you were made by the sea, Madam. I’m of no consequence, just a prop for indications.”

>ask man about he
“He? Is someone expecting me?”

You start believing the stranger is referring to Peter… then something more sinister comes into play. Why would Peter be expecting you when he’s the one gone missing, to begin with? And what’s with the man’s voice? Isn’t it fascinatingly wrong enough to suggest more malice?

The answer leaves you puzzled: “Edwin, Madam. I suggest you pay a visit to the Manor, and have your questions answered.”

>ask man about peter
“Do you know my husband? His name is Peter Cragne and…” you stop, looking for the right thing to say. “Well, I need to find him.”

“Oh, Madam, how twisted is the fortune of a bride missing her groom! Although, these days, I come to think of it as a natural aspect of modern marriage, isn’t it?”

Ugh, that most loathsome of Lovecraftian creatures, a social conservative.

>ask man about marriage
“You didn’t answer my question,” you insist. “Do you know where I can find Mr Cragne?”

Captn Squinter points across the town square to a hill where you can see lights from Cragne Manor’s upper balcony. The rotten finger displays a silver loop as big as a cherry pit. You fleetingly glimps a strange icon on it, covering the entirety of its flat top.

“Up there, Madam,” he says with hollow voice. “that’s where all the Cragnes rest.”

You don’t fail to notice how he finally pronounced your name correctly. You shiver at the last word he used.

>x loop
You can’t see any such thing.

>x ring
Which do you mean, the outer ring, the median ring, the inner ring or the rubber ring?

We can’t see the ring on its own, but we can ask about it:

>ask man about loop
“Nice ring,” you flatter him.

The one-eyed man looks away. “I ain’t got no ring,” he says, hiding the hand in a pocket of the weary jacket.

But you are pretty sure there was a ring on that finger. And it was so big it could be used as a seal for sealing wax. The stamp on it – provided it was a stamp – resembled something in the likes of an octopus, although you could swear it held more than a dozen tentacles.

Maritime symbols, you convince yourself, and don’t insist further.

Maybe it’s our cephalopoidal friend from earlier! This is interesting, our friend here is quite loquacious so it’s notable that asking about the ring gets him to clam up.

So to speak.

>ask man about edwin
“Who’s this Edwin? I know nobody by that name. And now that you mention it, I know nobody at all, up here!”

The one-eyed man rubs his hands as if to heat them from a winter that’s gone on too long. “Sir Edwin’s a quiet man who mostly keeps to himself. But he’s also a philanthropist, in his own way. I’m sure you would find him entertaining enough as to follow his lead, Madam. Or so I was told.”

>ask man about entertaining
“Entertaining?”

“Oh, yes. He knows a lot of tricks. And he has gifts. Gifts for all that are bold enough to follow his example.”

>ask man about told
“Do you even happen to know this man… Sir?”

“Oh, everybody in Backwater knows about Sir Edwin. They know of his heritage.”

He then scrubs his hands – showing for the first time a vast irritation, a blotch of red, dead skin, covering both his palms – and sends the glance wandering to the southeast, from where a cold, inhumane sirocco comes wailing abruptly. You hold on to your garments.

“We are his heritage, after all.”

>ask man about gifts
“Gifts?”.

“Oh, yeah Madam. Very nice gifts, and very precious ones too. He has a gift for each one of us, and each gift is tailored to its intended bearer’s wish. He gave me one, too, and promised I’d be free of it once the mid-summer woodpecker sings. Wanna see it?”

Hmm, is that a clue to the manhole-ring-thing? That had a woodpecker on it.

>ask man about see
You lose yourself inside the man’s only eye. For minutes, or hours, you stare into a vast, expanding abyss of pure blackness, increasing its circle as a dark stain of bleeding oil.

Then, something happens.

He grabs your hand and pulls it towards his jacket. Before you know what you’re doing, your fingers latch onto the fabric and start pulling it open. Where the man’s body should be, is the same engulfing darkness you saw in his eyes. Twisting, twirling like a thousand microscopic suns, like the limbs of an ever-forming galaxy. In a few seconds the jacket is open and you can’t see anything other than this despair, like it is devouring you.

You are falling into it.

When you regain consciousness, the man is gone, and with him all his secrets. You are left standing disconcerted near the iron bridge, questioning if any of this really happened… and your own sanity.

Whoah whoah whoah I was curious about his opinions on the Holy See! We had more to ask about so let’s back up.

>undo

>ask man about heritage
You take a deep look into his eyes, checking for the remnants of this figure’s sanity. “You are his heritage,” you whisper.

The man laughs abruptly, startling you.

“We, Mrs Cragne, Madam. Us and you. Everybody. Everybody in Backwater is his heritage. And everyone that’s ever been here. It’s always been like that, and it always will. He put his gentle hand on our hearts – mine and yours, Madam – and since then we got to see beyond the veil that divides the worlds.”

>ask man about veil
You widen your eyes in disbelief.

“Find Sir Edwin,” he says, with a relaxed smile. “He has all the answers. He will show you things.”

>ask man about manhole
“What is this… emblem, in the center of the square?”

“It is a symbol of sorts. Don’t know much about it. Except that you can see similar… designs scattered all around Backwater. Usually, though, they are hidd-… I mean: less exposed. They represent some sort of feast, or the likes of it. But, then again…”

He scratches his nose.

“The inscription are in Navajo,” he concludes.

NAVAJO???

>ask man about navajo
“The old Indian language? Aren’t they supposed to originate, like, thousands of miles from here?”

“You can’t really understand the history of this town if you aren’t ready to accept some level of absurdity, Madam.”

That’s a fair point – I consider myself mollified.

Checking back over the bolded keywords, there’s only one I missed, of course at the very beginning:

>ask man about welcome
“Name’s Cragne, Sir. But thanks. Do I know you?”

He smiles, and a phalanx of rotten, metal teeth opens up like a crack in the asphalt. “Oh, yeah – har! har! – sorry for the inconvenience, Mrs Crane. Didn’t mean to offend you,” he says, avoiding your question completely. “Did you visit the Manor already, Madam?”

>no
That was a rhetorical question.

All this does raise the question of how you pronounce Cragne correctly – in my head it was “crane” but sounds like that’s wrong. Maybe the gn comes out kinda phlegmy?

…at this point there’s nothing for it but to ASK ABOUT SEE again, so once again the abyss looms, the man vanishes, etc. We consult the coffee:

>x coffee
The swirls in your cup form the engine of a train. Modes of transportation mean that your current environment presents challenges that can only be overcome by seeking fresh perspectives elsewhere until you’re ready to return.

No kidding!

Well, we’ve learned a lot, but haven’t made as much progress this time – of the four locations we visited, we only completed one.

Any requests for where to explore next? We have a bunch of exits from the town square, and we can also circle around and try to get back to the village by going southeast.

Here’s the missing X ME at the Shack Exterior:

Apart from a touch of the heebie-jeebies, you feel fine.

Here’s the wrapup:

>i
You are carrying:
The Dollmaker’s Journal
a repaired page
a moldy, waterlogged journal
a small, rectangular battery
an antique locket (being worn and closed)
a waterproof flashlight
a shabby journal
a faint chill (haunting you)
a cast iron spire
the diary of Phyllis Cragne
a postcard of Big Ben
a giant milkweed leaf (being worn as a mask)
The Modern Girl’s Divination Handbook – Volume Three
a pull-string doll
a glass jar containing an insect
a half-full styrofoam coffee cup
a label (being worn)
a familiar gold wristwatch (being worn)

Here’s the map (I had to rejigger it a bit from last time to fit the new locations):

The transcript:
Cragne session 3.txt (58.7 KB)

And the save (again, this is for the Gargoyle interpreter, you need to rename from .txt to .sav to get it to work):
cragne session 3 save.txt (46.6 KB)

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That’s the second time somebody vanished while we weren’t looking. Considering her recent activities, could Nitocris be giving off an unpleasant odor? It’s not listed in our inventory, but if you live in the funk long enough, you might stop detecting it…

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I’m only now realizing I don’t know how to pronounce Cragne. Since we’re American, I’d vaguely imagined something between /krej.ɲə/ (CRAY-nyuh) and /kræg.ni/ (CRAG-nee).

“Crane” makes much more sense.

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Also, seeing all the disambiguation hell is giving me extension ideas. In a story with enough books, for example, it seems reasonable for Inform to default to the most recently mentioned one (out of the ones available in scope)—and memory is plentiful nowadays, so storing the turn count when an object was last mentioned isn’t an issue. We’ll see if it pans out.

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As I know a Ken Gagne, editor and publisher of Apple II magazine Juiced.GS, and I know that he phonetically announces himself as Ken Gag-nee for whatever reasons – maybe he likes it that way, or he knows nobody willl say it the right way, whatever that is, so he reinforces the easiest way by saying it the easiest way… I don’t know – that’s why it’ll always be Crag-NEE for me.

PS - I should point out, being Australian, I actually say it more like ‘Cragny’ than Crag-Knee. We don’t emphasise the last syllable, we emphasise the first. The way I’d say it is like, ‘These hills are very Cragny.’ Not ‘These hills are very Crag Knee’. That’s why no American can anticipate how to say Melbourne like an Australian. They’ll say ‘MEL BORNE’. It’s more like ‘Melbn’. You have to destroy the second syllable.

-Wade

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I was one of the testers of Cragne Manor who got really good at running the first half of the game over and over (because every time it was revised, all saves broke and you’d start again) but then never reached the second half. So this Let’s Play will be a handy refresher for me in my plan to go again at some point.

I’m enjoying the wit, and also the frowny faces have been cute.

-Wade

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During the creation period, Ryan and Jenni both expressed that they would not clarify nor bless any specific pronunciation. Just like nearly everything else, it was up to the unique interpretation of each author.

Much discussion and speculation ensued on the Slack, and it suggestions varied among CRAYNE, CRA-nyuh, CRAG-nee, FTThgn, etc. It’s however you want to pronounce it.

Jenni also eventually provides an in-game solution: The Jansport backpack becomes a holdall and provides multiple closable zippered pockets to sort inventory and remove unused items from scope and disambiguation. This also hand waves a bit that Naomi is traipsing around Backwater free-carrying armloads of stuff, which we knew would happen.

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I have a bit of a track record of pronouncing words strangely on account of only having read them (philosophy comes to mind- I default to “fill oh sof eee” rather than “fuh law suh phee”) but I’ve only just now realized that Cragne was probably not meant to be interpreted as Craig to most (read a bit like “Cruh egg”). Crane would be a pretty way to say it, though!

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That reminds me of The Play That Goes Wrong - there’s a character who can’t remember lines so writes difficult words on his hand and mispronounces them egregiously.

“It’s true! His smile was often merely a … … fuh-kade

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You’re near the part that made a lot of people rage-quit, I think (the bridge. You’re pretty close to getting through the introductory part!

This has been a lot of fun. I didn’t even remember the squid at all, I think I just enjoyed the ambiance at that room and came back at the very end using someone else’s advice. I love your exploration techniques.

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I mean per canon, we’re a four-thousand-year-old ghoul queen, plus it’s already been noted that we’re kinda gross from the trip to Backwater and we’ve resolutely refused to take a shower, so the possibility can’t be ruled out.

Ooh, that’s a cool idea since that does seem like the most reasonable behavior. An extension does seem useful, though I’m also curious to discover what’s behind Hanon’s spoiler-text…

Thanks, glad you’re digging it!

This pronunciation discussion has been fascinating, and per @sophia’s comment I’m also someone who spent all of middle school confidently talking about shama-lee-ons and other such things I’d never heard said aloud, so definitely not an authority here. It’s cool to see folks’ takes, though – I think I’m most convinced by @wade’s analogy to Gagne, if only because I think that’s a French pronunciation and since the Cragnes are our off-brand version of Anchorhead’s Verlacs, sticking with a common language, and presumably country of origin, seems reasonable. So from here on out, I’ll be pronouncing it Crag-NEE in my head – I apologize if that negatively impacts anyone’s enjoyment of the thread!

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Oh dear, that’s my room, isn’t it…

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Oh geez, this spoiler-text is ominous! I am resisting temptation to check behind it, but now I’m even more anxious about what awful thing we’re going to find next (don’t be a maze, don’t be a maze, don’t be a maze…)

Thanks so much for the kind words, glad you’re enjoying it!

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Most of the other hard puzzles are ones that you can avoid. Yours is the first room with real puzzles that actually gates content; you can’t just casually wander past it like the others. So I don’t think it’s a quality issue here, just a pacing one! Your room is one of the ones I remember most.

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Oh good, that’s a relief to hear! I’ll admit, I never actually got far enough to experience that part in context—so I’m very much enjoying this LP.

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As I’m getting reading to play my next chunk, I was realizing that I was starting to have some difficulty keeping all the potential loose ends in my head, and thought I’d write some notes of where we have unfinished business. I’m putting this here under a details tag, and then will include updates to it as part of my end-of-chapter wrap up:

Unfinished locations
  • Railway Platform: lost and found is locked with a card-swiper, vending machine holds an eyepiece and presumably takes money
  • Trail Station Lobby: locked green door
  • Church Exterior: locked door to church
  • Old Well: lots of stuff that “looks odd” which probably needs the eyepiece to examine, locked well, mysterious sigil
  • Shack Exterior: locked door to shack
  • Town Square: Navajo-language ring puzzle of doom
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Chapter the Fourth – Local History

When we left off, we’d just met our first inhabitant of Blackwater proper, and saw the map open up a bit; this time, we’ll mostly finish exploring the west side of town (unless the bridge teleports around again when we try to cross it).

Let’s start out heading north from the square – there was also an entrance into town heading southeast from the shack in the woods, and I think the link will be up this way.

>n

Outside the Library (Gavin Inglis)
A short street terminates here. To the south it opens into the town square. To the east, a few worn steps rise to the entrance of the public library, and to the west you can see a real estate office. A gloomy path leads northwest, towards the woods.

You can see a notice board here.

This game has a library? We can stop here, 10/10 (I like libraries).

Gavin Inglis has a pretty broad gameography per IFDB; a pair of ChoiceScript games, a Twine one, and a bunch of Fallen London stories. The ChoiceScript games have a haunted or undead theme, so I guess we’ll see how this plays out!

Beyond the library, we’ve got a real estate office? Eek, now I’m definitely having Anchorhead flashbacks – getting into an empty real estate office to get the key to your husband’s ancestral manse was the first real puzzle. I guess we’ll see if something similar plays out here. First, though, we’ll check whether that northwest exit goes where we think:

>nw

Shack Exterior (Michael Lin)
A clearing, outside a wooden shack. A clockwork doll sits here, utterly incongruous at the edge of the woods.

Check check check.

The notice board seems like the main attraction, but let’s see if there’s anything else worth checking out:

>x street
Well maintained.

>x square
Some distance away.

>x office
Oddly featureless.

>x path
A narrow access between buildings, its flaking plaster familiar from photographs of random crime scenes.

>x woods
Distant, dark foliage.

>x steps
Neoclassical columns frame a grand entrance. A wheelchair ramp has been constructed beside the steps.

>x ramp
Crudely installed, but solid enough. Perhaps a little steep for its purpose.

Thoughtful! The scenery isn’t really inviting much further exploration, though (CLIMB RAMP just moves us into the library), so the notice board it is:

…is what I typed right before finding out a family member who we’d just been hanging out with tested positive for COVID. Very mild symptoms and everybody else is testing negative so far, so thankfully no big deal. But COVID exposure means no child care this week, so the chances of getting another pre-ParserComp update are sadly low.

Regardless, after Nitocris stands fiddling about for 18 hours or so, I finally let her at the notices:

>x board
A weatherbeaten community notice board outside the library. Behind glass you can see a community events schedule, a ripped newspaper headline, and the winning stories from a children’s writing competition.

We’ll start with the stories – we appear to get a different one, picked at random, each time we examine them. There are maybe a dozen, so here are some highlights:

>x stories
There are a few stories on the board. You choose one at random to read.

“Underneath cars is a good place to hide. Sometimes you jump out and surprise the neighbors but sometimes you just lie there and wait where no-one can see you. You can tell when they get in the car because it comes a bit closer to your face and when they switch it on you sometimes cough. If you hold on to the metal stuff you can sometimes get a free ride but watch out because it burns your hands.”

“One night I was coming home from school. It was dark. Then I saw a light in the sky. It was a space alium. A light shone down on me and I went on the space ship. They gave me cookies but the chocolate chips were bugs. I was scared. They wanted to take me to their planut but I said I had to be home at 6.30 for dinner. The aliums seemed angry and they dropped me in a pond. My school books got wet. The end.”

This child was abducted by superevolved garlic? They weren’t kidding about the evil plants warning.

>x stories
There are a few stories on the board. You choose one at random to read.

“I have a friend at home she is called Bertrande. She does not go to school. When mom comes in she hides beneath the bed or in the closet and sometimes she makes a joke with a kitchen knife. Bertrande is from France in the sixteenth century where she was a pleasant girl. She was murdured by a noble man and she says if she can collect the bud of an entire family she can travel back in time for revenge. I like her hair.”

There are a few stories on the board. You choose one at random to read.

“Benjamin Jefferson was not just the presedent he was also a cowboy. He had a horse named Woodrow and he lived in a coffin with wheels. On Friday he would have a gun fight and he nearly always won. One time he met Doctor Abrhaham and they decided to build doge City. They got help from a friendly beaver.”

I’m pretty sure the Supreme Court relied on this totally-valid anecdote in their decision last week saying guns have more rights than women, because HISTORY.*

* (SCOTUS doesn’t actually know how to do history).

Little more social comment than usual folks, it’s been that kind of week. Let’s close this out with one more story:

>x stories
There are a few stories on the board. You choose one at random to read.

“One day I was mixing paint and I made a new color! It was red and green and pink and all the colors at one time! I painted it on a painting and it made a hole with glowy edges! I tried it on the back of my door and it made a bigger hole! But when I looked through it was not our upstairs but another person’s house with different colored walls and leg stuff hanging from the ceiling! I am going to climb through and see if it is an adventure!”

…For the sake of my sanity, I am not even going to attempt to unpack “leg stuff”.

What else do we have on the board?

>x schedule
Monday: Poetry reading.
Tuesday: Poetry reading.
Wednesday: Cross-stitch. NO GUNS.
Thursday: Poetry reading.
Friday: Alcoholics Anonymous.
Saturday: Poker.
Sunday: CLOSED.

Ah, but you see, one time Benjamin Jefferson did his gun fight on a Wednesday, not a Friday, therefore the cross-stitch gun ban is unconstitutional. Originalism!

…like I said, I’ve been in a bit of a mood. One last thing to check out:

>x headline
“Vicious Animals Are Dismembered In Gory Nightly Excess, Pumped High On Drugs”

Those Capitals Sure Seem Significant.

(It’s our old friend Vaadignephod again).

I check out the exits to make sure nothing’s locked, and inadvertently actually enter the real estate office; this triggers a flood of verbiage that I’m not at all ready to process yet – don’t worry, we’ll get there later in this chapter – so we back off slowly, consult the coffee (yep, nothing to do here anymore) and start with the library:

>e

Backwater Public Library (Carl Muckenhoupt)
This is unusually spacious for a small-town library. You think you remember something about it being a national historical site? That would explain the decor, at least. It’s half rustic colonial, half modern budget-strapped public service, with a meager collection of creaky shelves standing in the middle of an old plank floor. A small display case stands prominently near the entrance, and some weird chairs are scattered around for the comfort of the patrons, none of whom are here at the moment. The sole exit is back to the west.

A fleece jacket is draped over the back of one of the chairs.

A librarian stands behind a counter.

Carl Muckenhoupt is a longstanding IF figure, probably best known for The Gostak, a game that’s basically one big language meta-puzzle, and for creating Baf’s Guide, which was a sort of one-person predecessor to the IFDB.

Also, yay, library! Yay, books!

Examining most of the scenery just redirects back to the room description, so let’s start with the real stars of the show:

>x shelves
The books don’t seem to be in any particular order. You can browse if you like, but good luck finding anything specific.

As with the stories outside, BROWSE will get us a random result; here’s a sampling:

You take from the shelf a treatise on 18th-century agricultural techniques. It doesn’t seem at all relevant to your situation, so you return it to its place.

Given the profusion of evil plants around here, I actually kind of want this!

You come across the middle volume of a best-selling fantasy trilogy. Sighing inwardly, you place it back on the shelf.

Browsing, you discover an already-solved book of crossword puzzles. You don’t see how this is going to help you find Peter, so you return it to its place.

You randomly pull out the autobiography of an obscure political functionary. With an increasing sense of futility, you place it back on the shelf.

A cursory search turns up a dense and incomprehensible book of philosophy. Sighing inwardly, you put it back where it was.

Your hand comes to rest on a self-published volume of mawkish poetry. You don’t see how this is going to help you find Peter, so you place it back on the shelf.

Well, it might help snap us out of feeling too sorry for ourselves… The stacks aren’t much help, but there’s one rather obtrusive book left to check:

>x case
In the display case are a plaque and a big black book.

>x plaque
DE VERMIBUS LACERIS

In 1630, the eccentric scholar and polymath Henry Danton Gules came to America to study the superstitions of the Abenaki people, who he was convinced held “the secrets of the earth”. He spent much of the next eight years living among them, learning their language and folklore. Or so he claimed; his accounts of his experiences range from the highly exaggerated to the outright fabricated.

“The native storytellers have shown me wondrous things. Under the mountains are caverns without limit, where great beasts roam, and feed upon the buried dead…”
(Letter from Gules to a colleague)

During this time, he wrote two books, under the pseudonym “Azban” (a trickster figure from Abenaki legend). One, now lost, was a text on a language that he called “Adamic”, which he claimed was the original language spoken before the fall of the Tower of Babel. The other, displayed here, is De Vermibus Laceris, which he described as “completing the known principles of ritual magic by reuniting them with the forgotten wisdom of the ancients”. Most of the book is written in a mix of Latin and English, but some of the more theoretical passages, including several entire chapters, are in Adamic, and have not been translated.

In order to publish these books, Gules helped to finance the first printing press in New England in 1638. However, he never saw them printed, due to his disappearance in the great New Hampshire earthquake later that year. The few copies that had been made were declared “blasphemous” by Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop, who ordered them destroyed. It was believed that no copies survived until 1986, when the volume displayed here was discovered concealed in a wall of the Backwater Public Library during renovations.

Whew, backstory! From the title, this sounds like it’s riffing on the major mythos tome created by Robert Bloch (writer of Psycho, and a correspondent with Lovecraft in his youth), Ludvig Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis. Then I think the Abenaki are occasionally mentioned in Lovecraft; they’re an Algonquin nation from the northeast, so that checks out.

I’m dusting off my middle-school Latin to see if we can figure out what this book’s about; “vermibus” is the dative or ablative of “vermis”, or worm (those being the cases you use when the noun is a direct object), while “laceris”, as best I can make out, is “that entice you” – so this book promises to tell us “of the worms that entice you”?

(Using the dative/ablative form of vermis is I think more correct here; now that I think about it, Bloch’s attempt to render “Of the Mysteries of the Worm” into Latin might literally be closer to “Of the Worm of Mystery” which has a slightly different ring to it. That dashing worm!)

So what’s the book itself look like?

>x tome
(the shabby journal)
A shabby looking leather volume with uneven pages. The letters “LVPB” have been burned onto the spine, under the insignia for The Backwater Public Library, which features two back to back crescent moons joined by a downward looking eye.

This appears to be what’s known as a commonplace book. It’s a place for a writer to jot down ideas and fragments. There’s really no order to it, but you could flip through it, if you wish.

Frost lines the edges of the library insignia.

:angry:

Sorry, it’s a big black book, not a tome

>x big
(the postcard of Big Ben)
A faded postcard with a picture of Big Ben on it. You’d guess the picture dates from the first quarter of the century.

:angry: :angry:

>x big black book
A massive tome, with ragged pages bound in badly-decayed black leather, laid open on a stand.

>take it
The display case isn’t open.

>open case
It seems to be locked.

That would be too easy. It is displayed with one page open, at least:

>read it
The grimoire in open on a page describing peeling open the way to someone lost, whether they be in this world or not. You gather from the prelimaries that the ritual involves the horn of a black goat and a cyst from a god, as well as the lost one’s true star sign and their most treasured memento. How the ritual is actually performed is further in the book on the pages you currently cannot see.

Wow, that seems like it might be useful for finding Peter! We haven’t even started to make a dent on collecting those prerequisites, though, so this feels like endgame material.

(Figuring out the star sign of a family member reminds me of a puzzle from Anchorhead…)

Anyway, that disambiguation issue above gave me an idea:

>give tome to librarian
(the shabby journal to the librarian)
She does something with it behind the counter that makes a “klonk-klonk” noise, then puts it on a cart for later reshelving.

Hopefully that was good? Through experimentation, we can also put the Dollmaker’s Journal on the cart, but none of our other books appear to be library books.

(There also appears to be a small bug in the cart’s implementation here, where we’re told the librarian takes and hands back to us anything that doesn’t belong on the cart, but stuff still winds up on the cart all the same. I’ll try to think if this lets us do anything silly later on, but I’m running dry on ideas for now).

Speaking of the librarian, let’s chat her up!

>greet librarian
She shushes you again and taps on the sign with a fingernail, then points at you and then at the bookshelves in the middle of the room.

>x sign
QUIET PLEASE

>ask librarian about insignia
She shushes you again, sharply. It’s a little strange how she doesn’t purse her lips when she does that. She basically just holds a finger to her mouth and blows around it.

Creepy bit of characterization, or lazy dodge to get out of writing dialogue? You decide!

One last thing here…

>x jacket
Hey, isn’t this Peter’s jacket?

Yeah, it totally is! It’s got that worn-off section on the elbow from your bike trip together. I guess he must have been in the library recently and left it there. Only… how could anyone forget their jacket in this weather?

In Peter’s jacket is a library card.

It’s a rare inventory item we don’t have to feel bad about yoinking!

>take jacket
A card flutters to the ground as you pick the jacket up. Almost involuntarily, you stoop and pick it up too.

>wear it
You put on Peter’s jacket.

>x card
A battered beige rectangle with rounded corners, printed with the library insignia, and bearing the words:

PETER CRAGNE
CRAGNE MANOR
is entitled to borrow books from
BACKWATER PUBLIC LIBRARY
Backwater, Vermont
and is responsible for all books taken on this card
Expires APRIL 1998
No 19078

A little metal dealy clips through the cardboard, with a mirror-reversed version of the ID number stamped into it. They really haven’t upgraded their systems in a while.

We’re a member of the library, yay – maybe this will let us check out the Big Book of Evil, assuming it’s before April 1998 (I don’t think the date’s been established yet, but I think we know it’s summer).

>show card to librarian
She takes the card from you and fusses with some machinery behind the counter. You hear the buzz of a dot-matrix printer, and then she gives you back the card along with a note.

>x note
ATTENTION PETER CRAGNE

This is your notification that your status with the Backwater Public Library is DELINQUENT due to NON-RETURNAL.
You are NOT PERMITTED to check out books or to access special library materials until your status is cleared.

To clear your status, you must return ALL books you currently have checked out:

To Have, and To Have Knots: An Illustrated Guide
Twin Hearts Between the Planes
Backwater Personalities (1915-1925 edition)
Tolerating An Asinine God
The Lives of the Roman Emperors
De Zeven Testamenten van de Krijsende Zeeworm
Venator in Tenebris
'Pataphysical Approaches to Quantum Superfluids
Legends of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley
A Rudimentary Taxonomy of Known Scent and Grotesque Reactions
Life Beneath Nightmares
Buried Tales of Old Vermont
The Seven Gaunts
New England and the Bavarian Illuminati
ANCHORHEAD. A What-do-I-do-now Book Based on the Works of MICHAEL GENTRY

Ah, here’s the quest. This is quite a lot of books, and the two we returned don’t appear to be on the list. So before we can even get to the spell, we’ll need to wrap up this collectathon – long way to go yet, hobbits.

The coffee confirms there’s more to do here, but we’ll need stuff from elsewhere, so there’s nothing for it but to brave the loathsome precincts of the real estate agent’s office.

(Might be a bit of a break before I get the second half of this chapter posted, so temper expectations accordingly y’all).

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