Let's Play: Cragne Manor

(Chapter the Eighth, concluded for real)

We’re back where we started from:

>put wax on pentagram
You put the lump of wax shaped like a horse on the pentagram edge (covered in blue flames) on the floor just outside the stall.

>wave ermine
You wave the fur stoat-coat. Magical energies swirl around and about the coat. They might not be magical energies. They might be trails of thrift store dust. Anyway, there’s swirling that happens.

>put juggs on pentagram
You put the vintage issue of Juggs Magazine on the pentagram edge (covered in blue flames) on the floor just outside the stall.

>stab it with athame
“Sorry about this, Glinda” you say, stabbing downward with the witch-knife into the magazine on the pentagram. The ghost-flames flare brightly and suddenly become fiery arms, twisting and turning around the vintage issue of Juggs and then pulling it down forcefully into the surface of the pentagram. It vanishes, and the magic flames return to (locally relative) normal. Well at least they’ve got some “articles” to “read” to in Hell now.

This is going great so far!

>shout outerica
You shout the magic translocation word OUTERICA! The pentagram flares. The walls of the stall explode outwards with a burst of magical force from the toilet, which begins to emit a howling nightmare hurricane wind. You’re forced backwards against the wall near the grab bar. The boneless sack of horse does not move, but its flesh pulls back and starts flapping as if it was hanging itself out a moving car window. Gross.

The æther in the commode glow brightly of a sudden, and the gale wind stops howling forth from the toilet. Then it begins again, except pulling air from the room INTO the toilet.

The walls of the stall are wrenched from the floor by the devil wind and land on the open toilet, and then suddenly collapse into the toilet. The sink and the shower fixtures begin to make groaning noises as they pull at their wall screws. You grab the grab bar on the wall protectively as things begin to fly from the room into the toilet.

The urinal goes first, clonging off the back of the boneless horse before tumbling into the toiletbowl. Then the sink. Then the showerhead. Loose items start to fly out of your pockets and into the raging toilet-portal: the athame, the mysterious scroll. The lighter. Aw dammit, that thing was rad.

Wrecked Bathroom of the Meatpacking Plant (Chris Jones)
There is nothing left but you and the horse, a toilet and some wreckage.

You can see a pentagram edge (covered in flames) on the floor just outside the stall here.

You’re unable to move from the grab bar, and the horse is so damned heavy that the devil-winds are merely pulling it into a teardrop shape as it slowly works its way towards you. There is murder in its rolling horse eyes and it is still making engine revving noises. “Br-RNN-NN-NN!!”

And then the intensity of the wind increases. You grab on with both hands. The horse flails and then is suddenly lifted into the air sideways, its great rump landing square on the toilet. With a horrible schlorping noise, the horse’s rump slides into the can. Then a bit more. The boneless horse is being pulled into the toilet… halfway in… The toilet makes a sound like a balloon deflating, and then the wind stops… And the horse is still there, half out of the commode! Its beady little eyes roll in its boneless head. “Br-RNN-NN-NN-NN-NN!!” It starts flailing at you again with hooves the size of quart-jars!

The stupid fat-ass boneless horse is stuck in the magic shitter, and it’s still trying to kick you to death! What do you do?

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

If William S. Burroughs couldn’t do it, what hope do we have?

>flush toilet
You lock eyes with the horse. “Rot in hell” you say, yanking on the shower knob you juryrigged earlier. The toilet flushes. The evil boneless horse begins to blare and scream exactly like a car alarm: “wee-OO we-OO we-OO!! Bwaaaaaaaa!” And then, with a sound like God farting, the monster is pulled down and down into the toilet. And is gone. The blaring car alarm grows distant and then is silent.

The wind stops. The toilet ejects a small amount of space detritus, then turns itself inside out and is gone. The pentagram glow fades.

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

>get in fetal position mumbling there’s no place like home there’s no place like home
You can’t see any such thing.

>sue the everloving hell out of every single Cragne there is, especially Konstantin
You seem to want to talk to someone, but I can’t see whom.

…Christ, I need a cigarette. I don’t mean Nitocris, I mean me – and I’ve never smoked.

You head on out of the meatpacking plant bathroom. What a fuckin’ day…

[Hit any key:

Meanwhile… somewhere else:

The little fungus man astronomer looked over his instruments. He and the other scientists had been watching the comings and goings on the strange satellite above his home planetoid for years, hoping to make contact with the beings that came through the portal

Such strange lifeforms. They died so rapidly that the fungus people had never been able to get a probe up to the satellite in time. And they could never determine what any of the strange technology of these bizarre humanoids was for, despite the best efforts of their science corps.

This time, a visitor had managed to survive the icy void of space, but the fungus people had not managed to make contact in time before it disappeared back through the portal.

But now something else was coming through the portal, a life form that the astronomer had never seen before! It had been ejected with such force that it had broken orbit and was hurtling towards the planetoid. It was close enough now that the Science Coprs had managed to collect some data:

Mamalian like the others. Four limbs with bilateral symmetry, a body and a head, also like the others. Except this one appeared strangely… noodly, compared to the others. And much larger. And making much stranger noises, as far as their listening devices could tell.

The little fungus man astronomer smiled and watched the creature hurtle towards the giant rescue net his people were hastily constructing over the icy sea of the planetoid’s surface. Perhaps now, at last, the gentle fungus people of Yuggoth would make first contact with a species that they could share their peaceful technology and culture with. Finally. The Day of Happy Cultural Exchange had finally come.

Poor Fungi from Yuggoth!

We consult the coffee to confirm that yes, thank God Almighty, we’re done here. And just to round things off, I do the X ME I forgot in the main area of the plant:

>x me
You look yourself over and realize that you are a mess right now. You wonder how it came to this.

You and me both, Nitocris. You and me both.

So that was – I mean you saw what it was. Are we sure “Chris Jones” isn’t just a pen name for Ryan Veeder? On the off chance it isn’t, and given the ambiguity in who wrote this thing, moving forward I think I’m going to err on the side of caution and just run screaming from anyone named Chris Jones. Or named Jones. Or named Chris.

That’ll only impact one of my direct reports, it should be fine.


You are carrying:
a small blue journal (which you know is a journal because it says “Mein Journal” on the front)
Ed’s coveralls (being worn)
a bottle of Pepto-Bismol
a torn notebook
an enormous dessicated rat corpse
a thin steel key
a piece of yellowed newsprint
a broken knife handle
a brass nameplate
a cast iron spire
loose bricks
Tolerating An Asinine God
a clipboard
a black business card
a trophy for a dog race
a half-full styrofoam coffee cup
a glass shard
a familiar gold wristwatch
a giant milkweed leaf
a label
an antique locket (closed)
a backpack features guide
a glass jar containing an insect
a book list
the diary of Phyllis Cragne
a postcard of Big Ben
The Modern Girl’s Divination Handbook – Volume Three
Twin Hearts Between the Planes
a Jansport backpack (open)
a key pocket (open but empty)
a book pocket (open)
a moldy, waterlogged journal
a side pocket (open but empty)
a trash pocket (open but empty)
Peter’s jacket
a brass winding key
a suitcase (open but empty)
a plastic bubble (open but empty)
a golden eyepiece
a pull-string doll
a waterproof flashlight
a repaired page
a wad of cash
a library card
a grimy rock
a long hooked pole
a soggy tome
an employee ID card
a shard of shattered carapace
a fungal powder
some yellowed newspapers
a rusty piece of metal
an aluminum key
a pamphlet of home listings
a hovering spark (haunting you)


Cragne session 8.txt (238.7 KB)

cragne session 8 save.txt (56.7 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: ???
  • Under the Bridge: rusty hatch
  • 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

…dear lord.

That is certainly the strangest thing I’ve seen in all my experience with Cragne Manor. And it’s nice to see I’m not the only one to imitate multiple rooms while technically staying within the letter of the rules! Enterable containers are a wonderful thing.

I can’t say it’s my favorite section; Jones’s authorial voice doesn’t really do it for me, and the frequent changes of tone broke my focus a few times. But, nonetheless, I read the entirety of Konstantin’s journal and I’m thoroughly impressed at how much everything got explained. I did not expect the boneless horse that sounds like a revving engine to ever actually make sense.

I imagine these are all colors or color-adjecent words, but I only recognize one of them: murex is the type of snail that was used to make royal purple (or possibly crimson) dye back in the days of the Roman Empire. “Sarcoline” sounds like it should mean “flesh oil” (sarx + elaion), which conjures up just a lovely mental image, but coquelicot and mazarine are utter mysteries to me.

EDIT: It appears mazarine is a deep blue, while sarcoline is flesh-colored and coquelicot is a bright red. The more you know.

Out of curiosity, is this supposed to say *vi or **vi*? Given the mentions of Carcosa and such I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also a Lovecraft (or Derleth) reference, but if so, I certainly can’t place it.


I thought it was called complex repugnant plait…


That’s my reaction too; given the buzz in the the thread I was anticipating something gross, maybe like the meat-idol from the Preacher comics? This was very much something else. The too-cool-for-school voice also can rub me a bit the wrong way – that’s why part of me wouldn’t be surprised if this was Ryan Veeder writing under a psuedonym, since I sometimes have that reaction to some of his stuff, though he writes much cleaner prose than what’s on offer here – but the sheer enthusiasm of overstuffing this one little room with like three times more puzzles, space, jokes, horror, and (surprisingly coherent!) backstory than it should be able to hold made it pretty appealing. Definitely happy to have gotten to the other side of that mountain, though!

Yeah, likewise murex I dimly recognized and I had no clue on the others (sarcoline sounds like it’s from the Greek? I am unironically kinda jealous of your Classics minor letting you spot stuff like that). “Mazarine” seems like it might be derived from the French Cardinal who was Richelieu’s successor, which a quick Google indicates might be right. These are fun words, which makes me wonder if the list of Aldermen was centrally-generated or if authors made up their own. Let’s see, the others we’ve identified are:

  • Cesious (turns out a kind of blue-gray)
  • Eburnean (we already learned this word, it means “made of ivory” so not a color but color-adjacent)
  • Fulvous (from the Latin, a kind of yellow I believe?)
  • Puce (kinda purple, relatively normcore compared to these others)
  • Rufous (red-brown, as we also learned)

Yeah, these seem of a piece to me.

Oh, that’s just Discourse being annoying – it’s supposed to be * * v i *, like “devil” with some letters knocked out. I’ll go back and edit.

We wound up changing our name after we switched bassists my junior year. We might have used some other names from time to time, I’ll see if I can remember any more as we go through.

(It’s clear this is a bit, right? This is a bit)


Well, it’s a good thing that horse is gone for good! With its body gone, its soul should stay in one place and not cause any problems—it has nothing around here it could possess, after all.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Backwater, one of the NPCs starts putting up these fliers…


I sincerely don’t think Ryan would write anything so blue - not just the body horror, but the sheer volume of cursing, scatalogical humor, and dick-jokes doesn’t seem quite like anything he has ever written or would be interested in for subject matter. I understand what you mean that it shares a bit of Ryan’s “meta-voice” but the horror I’ve experienced from him has been pretty cosy - like Robin and Orchid’s Scooby Doo-esque ghost mystery…though looking at his CV I may have missed something a little harder than that, not having played Crocodracula or much of Tales from Castle Balderstone. Someone definitely let me know if Veeder has gone edgy in anything I’ve missed!

I’m sure he authored some of the connective tissue of Cragne Manor, and of course the map and structure of the quests, but with 80+ people involved I’m almost positive someone would be aware if he had included a full room. I’d almost be convinced the voice and humor lines up more with something Jenni Polodna might create, but she had her own room credited to her without a pseudonym. Unless he came up with the idea and backstory and perhaps had Jenni flesh it out - no pun intended…could they have collaborated?

But gadzooks, that room. I’d heard of the infamous “boneless horse” but like @Draconis I had never actually experienced that sequence firsthand in play testing.


I’ll be honest, I would definitely not have noticed if one of the 80+ people in the project didn’t actually exist. There were so many of us on the Slack that I wouldn’t have thought twice about not recognizing a name during testing.

But, while the narrative voice does feel Veeder-esque, I agree that the tone shifts (which were the most jarring part to me) don’t. His works have always felt very deliberate in their tone.


True. And not every author participated in the Slack. Allegedly there were some contributors who weren’t experienced Inform authors and got hands-on help. But the mechanics involved in this room display a lot of I7 skill. I guess it’s possible someone wrote this and perhaps Ryan and/or Jenni implemented?

EDIT: Weirdly, Chris Jones’ profile link shows all collaborations and stuff that doesn’t credit a “Chris Jones” directly - like IF Whispers having Chris Conley and Joey Jones. I thought profiles were done by a unique ID, but I guess it’s possible that “Chris Jones” is either an effective stealth pseudonym using a very common name and surname, or it is a mystery person who did want to write something that edgy without blowing their cover. I’d still put my money on not Ryan or not just Ryan.


That makes sense – I have to confess I’ve played comparatively little of his stuff, since I was largely away from IF during his most active periods! Besides a Rope of Chalk and I think one of the Crocodraculas, I think the only other thing I’ve played is Taco Fiction from way back in the day, so I might just be importing a sense of edginess from that (and honestly probably as much based on my brain conflating additional edginess from Pulp Fiction as my very, very dim memories of playing it more than a decade ago).

But yeah, as you and Daniel note, there’s definitely a much greater level of craft in his work than what’s on offer here – I think I’m mostly just reacting to the fact that as you say, this is a big, sophisticated piece of work, and I can’t find any solid trace of “Chris Jones” to hang it onto (he doesn’t have an IFDB profile, so that link is just doing a general search for the name, which yeah, gets a lot of false positives – I find the IFDB search algorithm is kinda weak).

I’m probably overthinking it since there are all sorts of people who’ve done a bunch of messing around with IF without ever publishing anything (I actually got one or two people asking if I was a pseudonym after I wrote my first game) but I’m kinda taken with this notion that this massive project included someone who didn’t really exist :slight_smile:

1 Like

Though, now that you mention it, the text of the narrator in this section does remind me of the works of a certain Konstantin Cragne…


I’ve been enjoying reading this transcript. I played the game using that huge pdf hint book as a guide, and that bathroom is definitely one of the bits that stuck out to me. I wondered what you’d make of it.
Keep it up. :slight_smile:


Hmm my last message was meant to be just a general reply to the thread as I just hit reply at the top. This forum’s ui annoys me sometimes.


Chapter the Ninth: The Whole World is Green

Nitocris has been through a lot lately. While it’s exciting that we’ve finally found the eponymous pile, rather than make a beeline for it I’m thinking we should make some quieter plans – say, a trip to the library then a stroll through the grounds.

First, the library, since we have two books to return and I want to check something. I start out by typing one of the coolest commands in the history of IF:

>put god on cart
The librarian indignantly picks Tolerating An Asinine God off the cart, then notices the library insignia.

That’s number one, here’s number two:

>put hearts on cart
The librarian indignantly picks Twin Hearts Between the Planes off the cart, then notices the library insignia.

As you return the unread library book, the faint spark haunting your inventory flickers for a moment as if agitated.

Oh, interesting! We never got around to reading this one, did we? It’s the romance novel we got off the travel agent’s desk a long time ago, before the phrase “boneless horse” meant anything to us. Maybe we’ve had it all wrong, and this is a helpful spark that wants to help us find and read all the books!

We grab it back off the shelf, and get to reading.

>read hearts
You look at the inside cover of the paperback. The library insignia, a pair of back-to-back crescent moons flanking an eye which stares down at a book, is stamped here in purple. Underneath, in cursive, someone has written “For Mona with all the love in the world. Don’t take Jim back. He’s bad news.” Following this is a loopy flourish of a signature you take to be “Leelah Vaughan.”

[You can continue to READ the lion sex book; this is excerpt 1/7.]

Read the what now? …I’m dimly beginning to remember why we might not have perused this one after we picked it up.

As you finish reading the passage, the spark moves through the book with an eerie hum, leaving frost behind on the library insignia.

It did that to one of the other books too, which turned it from the chill to the spark.

We have some trepidation about actually reading this thing, but hey, we made it through Konstantin’s journal, this can’t be nearly as bad.

>read it
(You flip open the lion sex novel and read a page at random.)

“You’re leaving? Now? I don’t understa–” She held her hands up to protest, but instead found herself clutching the manuscript-sized envelope he pressed into her chest.

His voice was low and urgent in her ear, forcing a shiver to the base of her spine. “There’s no time to explain. Keep this safe. If you believe in me, we’ll see each other again.”

“Hey, wait up now!” she called after him as he rounded the bend in the stairs. “The hell you going, Steve?” The door closed with a self-assured thump, and she was alone.

A few moments later, back in her office, she pulled the manuscript out of its envelope. It was thick; several hundred pages at least. Scrawled across the first was a simple four-word message: “THEY CAN’T SEE STORIES.”

[You can continue to READ the lion sex book; this is excerpt 2/7.]

One fierce blow from his assailant sent his flintlock pistol clattering onto the cobblestones. A second blow, this one to his gut, knocked the wind out of him and doubled him over. “This is it,” he thought, “this is how I die, bludgeoned like a gopher by a third-rate murderer in the alleyways of 1890s London.”

Just then, a mysterious interloper appeared from among the shadows to brain his attacker with a lead pipe, dropping the tough to the ground without so much as a grunt. Nodding in satisfaction, she pushed her gear-encrusted goggles to the top of her head. “Can’t say I’m too impressed with this time period,” she told him. “It’s got sanitation problems for real.”

“Portia?” Steve gaped at her like a puzzled fish. “What are you doing here?”

She pulled a manuscript-sized envelope out of her cloak and waved it at him. “I believe in you,” she said, “and that’s important for our relationship, but what’s important for our lives right now is that we run like hell.”

[You can continue to READ the lion sex book; this is excerpt 3/7.]

Oof, this is pretty bad.

Portia jumped away from him so hard that she almost fell backwards over the fainting couch. “Steve!” she exclaimed. “You’re a lion!”

“I’ve always been a lion,” he explained. “I just deactivated the field that keeps people from noticing I’m a lion.”

Portia’s voice became a plaintive wail. “The hell, Steve? You had sex with me, I had sex with you, and you were a lion this whole damn time? The whole time!”

[You can continue to READ the lion sex book; this is excerpt 4/7.]

“I had lion dick in me?” Portia’s voice was becoming dangerously loud, and Steve glanced nervously at the Viscount, to make sure the drugs had not yet worn off. “Those things have barbs, Steve!”

“Portia. Calm down. You would know if my dick had barbs.”

“My mama raised purebred cats, Steve, I have seen some crap, all right? I have seen some crap.”

Grimly, Steve removed his pants. “Here. I’ll prove it to you.”

Good lord. Peter had better appreciate the things we’ve done to find him.

The next approximately eighty-seven pages are all lion sex. All of them. All of it.

[You can continue to READ the lion sex book; this is excerpt 6/7.]

You flip to the very end of the lion sex book [spoilers]. It ends with Steve and Portia retiring to a stable time loop somewhere on Approximate Earth to raise their half-lion (and quarter-dolphin? when did that happen?) kids.


[This is the end of the lion sex book, but you can READ it again to start over from the beginning.]

Huh, that sure looks like a cryptogram, doesn’t it? From eyeballing it, I’m guessing D is E, and XLD is THE? We could spend half an hour painstakingly translating this – or we could take advantage of Nitocris’s heretofore-unmentioned genius level number-crunching skills to brute force it, i.e. Google a cryptogram solver. Had I not just fought my way out of the plant bathroom, I might be tempted to do things honestly, but in this timeline, Nitocris has no more fucks left to give:


Umm. Why is the book talking to us and who is Auntie Stella?

Fortunately this thread exists as a log of everything we’ve done, and some judicious CTR-Fing turns up this bit of gossip from the travel agent slash local historian:

"Leelah Vaughan is the pen name of Stella Archer Cragne, wife of Horace Cragne. This book was published in 1980 – one year before Stella Archer Cragne (here Bethany drops her voice about two octaves) mysteriously vanished… Stella Archer Cragne disappeared on the third of May, 1981,” Bethany tells you. “She told her husband she was going into town to buy a hat for Petunia Cragne’s wedding. The ticket taker at the station confirmed that she boarded the 12:35 train to Montpelier, and after that (once again Bethany drops her voice into Unsolved Mysteries registers) nobody saw her again. Dead or alive.”

(See Post 42, second part of Chapter the Fourth, if you want the full skinny).

So she’s an aunt on our Cragne side, but she also disappeared like 17 years ago, which I’m guessing was well before we met Peter, and how would she have gotten her hands on our backpack to slip something inside it anyway???

These are deep mysteries, but hard to get too hung up on such things when we could be opening our gift!

>x hidden pocket
You feel around inside the backpack until you find the zipper pull cleverly disguised as a loose piece of thread. This must be a hidden pocket!

>open it
You open the hidden pocket, revealing a trolley pass and a trolley schedule.

I’m always in favor of mass transit, but Backwater seems a little small to support a streetcar system – then again, the Cragnes probably do significantly inflate the tax base.

>x pass
A small blue piece of laminated cardboard that says “BACKWATER TROLLEY MONTHLY PASS” in tidy serif font, with a yellow rope lanyard for you to hang it around your neck. You pray to any gods listening that you and Peter will be on a faraway beach together by the time the pass expires.

>x schedule
It’s unlike any public transit schedule you’ve ever seen, in that there are no times listed. A cheerfully phrased block of introduction text instructs riders to hang their passes around their necks, proceed to a trolley stop, and WAIT FOR whatever color LINE corresponds with their choice of destination. Well okay then.

Brown Line – Train Station
Gold Line – Church
Blue Line – Library Square
Aqua Line – River Walk
Orange Line – Constabulary Road
Green Line – The Woods
Red Line – Meatpacking Plant
Purple Line – Cragne Manor

Okay, handy! It looks like these are all places we’ve already been, depending on what exactly “The Woods” and “The Church” mean, but this could come in handy. Let’s check it out. When we go outside, we notice a new line in the location description:

An insubstantial trolley stop sign reads Blue Line – Library Square.

We can’t examine the sign or interact with it in any way, but the thing does work as advertised:

>wait for gold line
You lean against the path to the woods, hold out your pass, and wait for the gold line. Within moments, an ethereal trolley arrives. Instead of stopping and allowing you to board, it passes through you, and you find yourself transported to

Church Exterior (Andy Holloway)

This is just the exterior, so no shortcuts past barriers, but still, handy (The Woods stop is also at the Old Well, so nothing exciting on that front unless you count the opportunity to once again hug our pet land-octopus).

Let’s get to the second item on our agenda, the nature walk. We hop the Purple Line to the manor’s driveway, where we’ve got a choice of perambulating the house to the northeast or the northwest. Widdershins seems like the play:

(cutting here since this half-update is already over the character limit)


(Chapter the Ninth, continued)


Cragne Family Plot (Mark Britton)
A cramped and neglected place on unwholesome yellow soil. Over the years the gravestones have shifted like teeth in an overcrowded mouth, collapsing one atop the other. Crabgrass pokes up limply between them, urine-yellow and parched-looking. The earth mounds up around the shabby crypt, as if it’s sunk over the years into the Vermont topsoil. You wonder who would want to be buried here–and who would willingly consign their ancestors to this brutal place. Perhaps that’s why it’s been so neglected.

Four squat columbariums stand north, east, south, and west of here. A winding and uncertain path leads southwest. By stepping over collapsed gravestones and bleached obelisks you can go northwest. Carefully. You could also enter the crypt from here, if you were able to open it.

Three graves nearby draw your eye. One headstone teeters drunkenly, half overrun by lichen. One headstone has collapsed entirely. An adjacent plot stands open, overlooked by a blank headstone. The grave within is flooded almost to the top with bubbling rainwater.

You can see some rotten flowers and a china urn here.

(A columbarium is a structure for holding urns of cremains. And yes, the technical term for the ashes of someone who’s been cremated is actually “cremains”).

Mark here appears to be another debut author, though as always I welcome corrections in the comments.

Okay, so a lot of potential places to go here, especially if the columbariums are their own sub-locations. Let’s check those out first:

The door is shut. The geometric shapes incised deep into the marble prick at your eyes. No explanatory plaque is affixed. You wonder whose name was obliterated.

>x eastern
The door is shut. Crude figures are incised into the white marble door. One is jackal-headed, cringing and skeletal. Another is fat and imbecilic as a maggot. The tarnished plaque’s name has been eaten away; in its place someone has scraped “O homines ad servitutem paratos!”

Hey, Latin! I’ll try to figure it out, then @Draconis can tell us how I did. Homines is men of course, nominative plural; servitutem is slavery, accusative singular (checks out since it goes with ad, the preposition meaning towards or for), and paratos is I think some participle of paratum, which I know because of the Coast Guard’s motto – semper paratum, always prepared. Put it together, and it’s something like “O men, prepare yourselves for servitude”. If the Cragnes have signed one of the standard my-soul-is-yours-after-death dealies with a dark power, this checks out.

>x southern
The southern columbarium’s front panel hangs ajar, as if ripped asunder. Battered by the wind, it swings; the sound drills into your skull. Your gums ache.

Into the granite wall, someone has carved “MEDIA VITA IN MORTE SUMUS” in long, ugly slashes.

Er, eyeballing this one I think it’s something like “in the middle of life, death is there”? Except “sumus” is first personal plural of to be, so like “we are”, and “morte” is ablative so it goes with the in, so perhaps it’s more like “we are in death while at middle of life”? I dunno, this one feels a bit fuzzier; “et in Arcadia ego” is a punchier way of getting the point across, if you ask me.

A shame for the departed that the door here is ajar:

>close southern
You swallow hard around the lump in your throat. It’s oddly pathetic. You fumble with the columbarium door, but for your trouble get only wet hands.

Umm, why is it wet?

>x western
The door is shut. The marble is blank. Mold has seeped into its pores, dyeing it a fungal yellow. You don’t want to touch it.

A bouquet of flowers, black with rot, lies at the foot of the columbarium.

More fungus, yay. Still, Nitocris interprets “you don’t want to touch it” as “you’re really going to have to touch it.”

>open it
You don’t want to touch it, but you grit your teeth. The mold leaves a fine yellow smooch on your hand. You see a copper urn here.

>x copper
The smell leaches through the metal, clinging to your skin, your hair. Your stomach rumbles. You’re almost hungry.

Well, I suppose Nitocris is a ghoul – an urn like this is basically takeout. Might as well grab it in case we need a snack later.

When we check our inventory, there’s a (closed) tag after the urn, so let’s check that out:

>open copper
The stench is thick enough to blind you. Gagging you fall to your knees, shapeless forms whirling behind your eyelids; colors flash, almost solid, as if they have physical presence. You see stars bursting, flesh sloughing off the delicate bones of something curled in a damp and pulsating womb, a face that is not human and not animal. You’ll have nightmares tonight, if you sleep tonight.

Yeah this seems like the good stuff.

There was another urn around, too:

>x china
The urn’s been half reduced to colorful powder, seeping into the mud.

>take it
As you scoop up the urn, it disintegrates into gritty powder. Chunks of bone crumble apart in your fingers and are swept away by the rain.

Oops. Well, this is going to be an awkward conversation with the in-laws. While we’re grabbing things:

>x flowers
A bouquet of half-liquefied flowers. The heavy stench of the rain blocks out the smell. You wonder who left them here, and why.

>take them

>smell them
You smell nothing unexpected.

Ugh, that bad, huh?

Maybe we don’t need to be carrying these around right under our nose.

>put flowers in copper
You put the rotten flowers into the copper urn.

>close it
You close the copper urn.

>open it
Greasy red liquid flows out over your hands, itching like centipede legs. Something deep in the urn is just visible, adhered to the side. It is not ashes. Tiny hands, half-reduced to corpse-liquor, fold over a tiny blackened face.

Oh, that’s different (we can look in the urn and then see the flowers; trying to examine the face or the hands doesn’t get any result). After some experimentation it turns out that the two descriptions alternate every time we close and open the urn, and we can cram whatever we want into it, which may turn out to be useful?

More stuff here:

>x crypt
A sprawling and brutish monument with a skeleton incised into its metal door. You wonder who’d want to be interred somewhere so grim. You wonder if there’s a space inside for your husband.

>open it
You push and shove, putting your back into it, but the door remains locked. The skeleton grins stupidly down at you.

That’s probably a come-back-later type of thing – adding it to our list of stuff we need keys for.

Last major thing here are the gravestones:

A perfectly round face gawps up at you, its eyes and mouth neatly drilled out. Deep gashes score the granite, the name obliterated. You wonder how long it took. You wonder how much hate it took.

Just readable beneath a carpet of lichen is the inscription: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat-” Here the inscription has been pulverized. A line below it continues: “-till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto-” The inscription crumbles away. An entire line has been scraped off.

The quotation’s almost familiar, but there’s something off-putting about the missing words. They draw the eye like wounds.

This the King James version of Genesis 3:19, the expulsion from Eden. The missing word is “bread” and then the omitted final line is “dust shalt thou return” – feels kinda general, not sure if there’s a clue there?

>x collapsed
The stone is pitted, perhaps acid-eaten. A litter of dead insects and blackened leaves leaks from every cranny. Almost unreadable is the inscription “Zadie Cragne, 1829.”

One date. You search in vain for a second, then glance round at the jostling tombstones and wonder how many infants lie beneath.

>x blank
It’s fresher than the others, not yet crusted with lichen. Search as you might, you can’t find a name.

It’s not mentioned in the description, but the grave under the blank stone is open:

>x grave
Mildewed and splintering boards cover the nearest grave. Beneath, gritty ocher water, thick as paint, laps the soil. The grave is open. A granite headstone looms over it, implacably blank.

So it’s maybe a bit damp, but sure seems cozy – it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten to curl up in a nice tomb!

>enter grave
You kneel by the grave, your gorge rising. The boards crumble, staining your hands yellow, as you push them aside. As you disturb the murky rainwater it bubbles, an acrid stink wafting up; your eyes itch and water.

It’s easily six feet deep. You imagine the water closing over your head with a soft slurp, soaking through at once to your skin. You could drown there, clawing at the melting earth walls, your feet never scraping bottom.

You sit back, gasping for air. Your skull fizzes. An earthy taste remains on your tongue, and the wind spattering your face as you get to your feet is an odd relief.
You’ll have to find another way down.

So this seems like it’s the puzzle here, let’s try messing with it:

>put copper in grave
You put the copper urn into the flooded grave.

As much fun as playing boats is, we probably shouldn’t leave this out.

>take copper
You imagine reaching into the murky rainwater to retrieve the copper urn, and nearly vomit.

Huh, shouldn’t it be floating?

>put all in grave

All our inventory – well, everything we aren’t wearing – goes right in.

>take all

You imagine reaching into the murky rainwater to retrieve the cast iron spire, and nearly vomit [times like 37]

I’m sure there’ll be some way to get our junk back, seems fine.

>x coffee
The swirls in your cup form a mermaid. Images of strange hybrids mean that some challenges in your current environment can be defeated with what you already possess, while others will require outside assistance.

See, the coffee wouldn’t lie.

Maybe we can like dam up the grave?

>push blank
It’ll fall over on its own in time. Give it time.

We still have the flowers since we put those inside the urn, so maybe we need to honor the dead?

>put flowers on grave
Putting things on the flooded grave would achieve nothing.

We live in a harsh universe, far from the regard of an uncaring god, I guess.

It belatedly occurs to me that my exploration of the columbariums (columbaria?) was drawn short by finding the copper urn, so maybe there’s something there that can bail us out.

>open eastern
You mumble an apology that the rain drowns out. The door gives way easily. Inside, gleaming in the scant light, is a silver urn.

>x silver urn
The incised shapes nauseate you; they whirl and dance in a frenzy, contorting and bulging, spreading like a fungus. You blink once, twice, and they were never there.

Opening it just gets us one of the same messages we got from the copper one.

>take it

>put it in grave
You put the silver urn into the flooded grave.

…you know, rereading this transcript I’m not 100% sure why I did this.

>open northern
The door is shut tight. You prod and pry, the marble panel squeaking on the granite. At last it gives way. Inside, just visible in the dark, is a bronze urn.

>x bronze
The metal seems to absorb all light. Unfamiliar colors dance iridescent on its surface. It’s greasy to the touch.

>take it

>open it
You open the bronze urn, revealing a key from an urn.

Oh, that’s nice!

>take key
Which do you mean, the aluminum key, the brass winding key, the thin steel key or the key from an urn?

>key from urn
You can’t see any such thing.

Ugh, implementation could be a little smoother here.

We try it on the crypt door, but it doesn’t work.

Hrm, I think that’s all of them, though.

>x western
The marble is blank. Mold has seeped into its pores, dyeing it a fungal yellow. You don’t want to touch it.

A bouquet of flowers, black with rot, lies at the foot of the columbarium.

Wait, didn’t we grab those already? (Checking) yes, they’re in our inventory – I took them back after putting them on the grave.

>open western
You don’t want to touch it, but you grit your teeth. The mold leaves a fine yellow smooch on your hand. You see a copper urn here.

Wait, did it teleport back from the grave?

>take copper
You imagine reaching into the murky rainwater to retrieve the copper urn, and nearly vomit.

The implementation here is definitely feeling shakey.

Well, at least there’s one thing we know how to do:

>put bronze in grave
You put the bronze urn into the flooded grave.

Why do you keep doing this, Nitocris? Is this like a ghoul hoarding instinct?

>x coffee
The clouds in your cup form a keytar. Images of strange hybrids mean that some challenges in your current environment can be defeated with what you already possess, while others will require outside assistance.

…it occurs to me that I’ve been delegating a lot of my decision-making to a half-empty cup of coffee.

>take water
You can’t see any such thing.

>dig grave
You dig at the mud with the toe of your shoe. Lukewarm water seeps in around your toes, soaking your sock.


>enter grave
Your throat closes up at the thought of touching the water.
You’ll have to find another way down.

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

>empty grave
You can’t bring yourself to touch the water with your hands.

Maybe that’s promising?

At this point I take time out from my busy schedule of trying to get stuff out of the grave to put the new key (plus the flowers) back in.

…after a bunch more faffing about, it begins to dawn on my that I may have made a boo-boo. I figure this is an OK time to glance at the hint thread just to see if I’ve made anything unwinnable. Good news: someone else has asked this exact question. Bad news: @mathbrush replies “as long as you haven’t put [blurry text] in the grave, you should be fine.”

You are carrying:
a trolley pass (being worn)
Ed’s coveralls (being worn)
a hovering spark (haunting you)

…I am pretty sure I have flubbed things. The hint suggests that there should be a failsafe popping up even if I have put too much stuff in the grave, but I’m sure not seeing it.

Fortunately, we haven’t actually accomplished very much yet, so it’s a quick matter to reload, zoom back to the library, and get back here, this time not chucking our entire inventory into a wet grave for reasons incomprehensible to the living.

The implication that there’s an object here that’s needed to solve the puzzle is enough for me to figure out the puzzle, though it seems a bit illogical to me:

>empty grave with urn
I only understood you as far as wanting to empty the flooded grave.

>empty grave
Minutes pass, punctuated only by the gentle splash of stinking water onto the soil. Your shoulders ache; your fingers go numb holding the urn. Yet you’ve made some progress, and the grave walls are showing.

Given that it’s apparently still raining and the ground is super muddy and wet, I have a hard time believing that this urn is going to make that much of a dent, but hey, I’m not going to second-guess it if it works.

>x grave
The water’s half gone now, the bare walls stained ocher-yellow. You can’t quite believe you scooped out that much water.

>empty grave
Minutes pass, punctuated only by the gentle splash of stinking water onto the soil. Your shoulders ache; your fingers go numb holding the urn. Yet you’ve made some progress, and the grave walls are showing.
Your legs are numb, your clothes soaked with reeking water. As you stare into the empty grave, it leers up. Beyond your reach rainwater sloshes round the bottom.

You think you could climb down now. Carefully.

Something seems to have gone weird here, but I think we’ve fully emptied it?

>empty grave
You lean down, shoulders protesting, and catch a whiff of sour air. You pull back, choking. The remaining water is beyond your reach.

You think you could climb down now. Carefully.

>enter grave
You clamber cautiously into the grave, gagging at the stench, and don’t relax until your feet touch the ground. Your footing is unsteady here; the walls seem to be dissolving before your eyes, slick with iridescent runoff that reminds you of gasoline. To the west is the grave of Zadie Cragne, you think, and to the east is the grave with the vandalized headstone; yet your sense of direction down here is limited at best.

The dirt to the west is dissolved more than the rest. Something pokes through the mud there.

>empty grave
You scoop up some scummy water from around your ankles, but let it drain out again. There’s no way you can bail from here.

The rain pounds your back and rattles your bones. Looking down, you realize you’re knee-deep in water already. Around you the mud groans ominously.

Seems like we’re on a timer here, but we’ve got something to grab:

>x mud
You can’t see any such thing.

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

>x western
The marble is blank. Mold has seeped into its pores, dyeing it a fungal yellow. You don’t want to touch it.

A bouquet of flowers, black with rot, lies at the foot of the columbarium.

That’s annoying, how do we actually find this thing?

…but we have bigger problems:

You hear it before you see it: the whole grave groans, a low sepulchral note, and the walls squelch as they slump down. The smell is acrid, overwhelming. You cough, falling to your knees; soft mud hits your back, your head. Upward you dig, the weight bearing down and swallowing you up. The water is in your mouth, your nostrils, your eyes. Stars pop in the back of your skull. A red haze floats before you in the hungry darkness.

*** You will be buried here for a long, long time. ***

Oi. We undo, climb out, and bail again to reset the timer.

>search grave
The flooded grave is empty.

>>x grave
The grave stands empty, save for a few inches of foul water. Something is just visible through one of the half-melted walls to the west.

Which way do you want to dig?

There’s no exit that way, and you are in the flooded grave anyway.

>dig west
The mud crumbles away. You hold your breath, expecting a whiff of rot, a crumbling coffin no longer than your arm. But there is nothing–nothing but a pewter box too small to be a coffin.

You hope, at least, it’s too small to be Zadie’s coffin.

Whew, a little guess-the-verb-y but here we go.

>take box
You scoop the box out of its crumbling niche. A whiff of stale air hits you, and you recoil. Yet the box remains safely cradled to your chest. Something inside it thumps, as if to the rhythm of your heartbeat.

You can see no further into the grave.

Now we’ve got what we came for, we clamber back out, just in time:

With a thunderous squelch the walls cave in and the grave floods again; an acrid stink mushrooms up. Your eyes water, your throat tightens. Anything you left in there is probably pretty drenched.

So what’d we get?

>x box
A dull pewter box, unaccountably heavy. Your gaze skids over the engravings. Damp and glistening, they look very nearly alive.

>open box
It seems to be locked.

>unlock it with key from an urn
You unlock the pewter box.

>open it
You open the pewter box, revealing The Lives of the Roman Emperors.

>x lives
It’s still wet from Zadie Cragne’s grave. You don’t recognize the publisher–some little New England college, you guess. The pages stick together, discolored and mildewing. Stamped on the cover is the insignia of the Backwater Public Library.

Ah, this was all worth it, one more from the book list. There was something I wanted to try:

show lives to spark
(first taking The Lives of the Roman Emperors)
You hold the book out to the spark, which hesitates, then plunges inside the pages. The book freezes, and tumbles from your hands. Once dropped, the spark re-emerges, frost recedes from the cover, and remains only in the library’s insignia.


The Lives of the Roman Emperors – is this Seutonius?

>read it
(first taking The Lives of the Roman Emperors)
–Octavius Lucilius Saturninus, accused of turning Palatine Hill into his whorehouse. Few reliable reports exist from Saturninus’s contemporaries.

Fragments of satirical poetry now survive. Until the 17th century, the commentaries of Sextilius were rarely copied and often actively suppressed; they appear on several lists of books condemned by the Papacy. Sextilius’s depictions of Saturninus’s court are outrageous not for their sexuality, nor for their frank violence. Rape and incest were not unknown in the literary tradition of Imperial Rome, nor in the Imperial court (witness the accusations leveled against Saturninus’s predecessor Gaius Lucilius and his daughters, the survivors among whom were exiled by the Salvius family).

Rather, Saturninus was condemned primarily for his offenses against the Roman religious-political complex. The Eastern cult promoted in Saturninus’s court did not merely deny the existence of the Roman gods; nor did it “simply” elevate Saturninus and his family to the pantheon. Saturninus is believed to have struck at the very heart of Roman morality, depicting Rome herself in helpless thrall to the Eastern gods–

As you finish reading the passage, the spark moves through the book with an eerie hum, leaving frost behind on the library insignia.

…this is not Seutonius. These are Roman names, but none of these folks are historical: Otho was an emperor of the Salvian gens, but he was a three-month-wonder during the year of the Four Emperors, there was a Gaius Lucilius who was a Republic-era satirist, and as for Saturninus, there was a pretender who raised his standard in short-lived rebellion against the third-century Emperor Probus, but was assassinated by his own troops before anyone noticed. The model for worship of Asian gods as hostile to traditional Roman religion also feels quite at odds with the far more syncretic reality (Mithras, the patron god of soldiers, was a direct import from Persia, for example). But hey, there’s a lot of crappy ancient scholarship out there, so it goes.

Coffee confirms that we need something from elsewhere to complete our work – the key to the crypt, I assume – so we can move on. Gotta say, this wasn’t my favorite room; the basic idea was fun, and some of the writing was good, and getting stuck was less the author’s fault and more due to my pathological desire to bury all my worldly possessions in a muddy grave (look, Nitocris is used to pyramids, okay?), but still, there was enough implementation wonkiness and unclear situations to make things annoying.

As is traditional, I forgot to X ME, but here it is when I went back later and checked:

The cuffs of your jeans are soaked with greasy, pale-yellow mud. You stink of rot, and the sweat mingling with rain on your cheeks burns like vinegar.

(to be continued in a bit)


Maybe related to Suzanne Britton (of “Worlds Apart” fame), but that’s only speculation, I don’t know at all.

I broadly agree, but I think homines might be the vocative (which is usually identical with the nominative form, except for Brutus → Brute and the like) because they are directly addressed in “O homines”.

It could theoretically also be accusative plural, because that would be congruent with paratos, which is accusative plural (nominative or vocative would be parati).

So, I’d tend to think it’s “O prepared-for-servitude men” or “O men (who are) prepared for servitude”, but since I’d rather render that as “O homines ad servitutem parati”, I might be overlooking something. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to exercise Latin. :slight_smile:

Exactly, I think the translation is canonically given as a set phrase, “in the midst of life we are in death”.


Pretty much! But I believe paratōs has to be the participle “prepared”. Using an accusative instead of a vocative like this isn’t too weird; the classic example is mē miseram “oh, woe is me!” (literally “oh miserable me!”).

So I would say “oh men, prepared for servitude”—and the context makes me think “prepared” as in animals being prepared for the slaughterhouse. (Hominēs is more broadly “people”, not just the male ones, but “oh people” doesn’t have the right ring to it.)

Google tells me this one is actually a Gregorian chant! I believe the mediā vitā is ablative: literally “with life being at its middle”, we are in death.

The rain, I imagine. :stuck_out_tongue:

A nitpick, but the description does mention this.

All in all, the atmosphere is lovely but the implementation seems rather fragile. I also don’t really understand what the puzzle is here. You open two of the columbaria, one of them holds an empty urn you can bail with (to empty the grave to dig out the box) and the other holds an urn with a key (to open the box and get the book)?

On the plus side, we now have another Cragne (with a year of birth and year of death!) and another library book. But I think the librarian is on to us. If Nitocris was just the mortal Naomi Cragne instead of an ancient ghoul-queen, there’s no way she could be responsible for sealing this book in a pewter box and burying it in a grave from 1829.

There’s only one thing to do now…

Appease the librarians so they don’t alert the townsfolk, of course.

(Or, alternately, our dear husband knows about our obsession with storing things in tombs and decided to dive into the open grave and bury this book in the wall for us to find. He’s so thoughtful!)


(Chapter the Ninth, continued)

Let’s keep up with our counterclockwise peregrinations:

You make your way to the rear of the manor house toward its back garden, playfully keeping to a trail of broken flagstones leading the way. Your simple amusement fades as you turn a corner to see a distant gate with an incredible amount of overgrowth choking the forward path. Knee-high grass blankets the ground while thick, thorny bushes crowd the way. You plow ahead, fighting through the hairy grass as it grasps and wraps itself around the fabric of your jeans, making every step a struggle. The slog is made worse by the overgrown bushes which seem to lean in further to assail you with their wicked, long thorns. You finally reach the gate with torn and deeply-itchy skin. Using the momemtum you’d built charging through the overgrowth you forcefully open the gate, snapping the vines draped over it which were holding it shut. The now-broken vines dangle downward from an arch over the gate, forming a swaying curtain of thorns which you delicately part and step through.

You nearly jump back at the sight of the writhing scene before you.

The Cragne Manor’s Back Garden (Austin Auclair)
Vines splay across the landscape, every direction they shoot, seemingly racing to the tops of trees to pull them down. The vines wind up and around every structure, overrunning them with sheer, sinister mass. The vines grow in hypnotic tracks across the yard, almost to suggest that they were woven, braided, and arranged with care. It’s both unnerving and unusually pretty. If there are windows or a door on the back of the manor house they’re utterly smothered by the vines that clamber up the wall and onto the roof, and nothing less than a chainsaw could crack open that tomb.

In the center of the yard is a large, vine-strangled structure that’s most likely a fountain. On the left side of the garden is something with the suggested shape of a birdbath, neatly wrapped up in thorny coils. And there’s one rather large, building-shaped hill of vines just in front of the southeast corner. Paths out of here lead southwest and southeast.

You can see a large patch of poison ivy (in which is a pair of garden shears) here.

We come now to the plant-centric portion of the game, which is starting out pretty creepy!

(That was a pun, like vine → creeper?)

Austin Auclair is someone else who’s name I feel like I’ve seen around, though besides his contribution here his only other IFDB credit is for a multi-author game riffing on 1984 (the book, not the year).

>x me
It has been a long day and the setting sun reminds you of how little you’ve accomplished. You’ve come dressed to work, however, with sturdy boots, stiff denim, a shirt you’re willing to sacrifice, and a bandana wrapped around your forehead. This old mansion likely needs some love and maintenance and you’re wearing the uniform for getting things done.

And now it’s sunny, but almost night – we spent a long time dealing with that grave!

(The bandana, unlike the aviator goggles from way back then, doesn’t appear to be separately implemented – too bad, those can be handy!)

>x vines
There are so very many vines in this back garden. Flowering, thorny, hairy, and vines in many hues of green and brown. You might be better off asking about the object your target vine has wrapped itself around.

Oh, that’s just what I love to hear – “there are so many weird strangly living ropes around here that you’re gonna have to narrow that down.” Awesome.

>climb vines
Little is to be achieved by that.

But that is like the whole point of vines in IF! (OK, it’s only 80% of the point; the other 20% is to cut them down and use them as rope).

>x ivy
All you can think about is the aphorism, “Leaves of three, leave them be” as you stare at this particularly vigorous and noxious-looking patch of poison ivy vines. Your skin crawls and your imagination runs wild with the nightmare of you falling into the poison ivy and having to scratch your skin until it turns bloody. Their hairy tendrils almost seem to drip with sticky poison.

In the large patch of poison ivy is a pair of garden shears.

Of course.

>x shears
They’re long-bladed garden shears, like a giant pair of scissors. They’re currently completely surrounded by vile poison ivy.

>take shears
No way, not while the shears are still absolutely surrounded by that vile poison ivy.

So far today Nitocris has faced down a ghost train, mind-melded with a kraken, summoned dozens of diminutive monsters, plumbed an underground river’s depths to recover the bones of a long-dead whale, and survived the hell that is the meatpacking plant bathroom, but now we’re drawing the line at poison ivy?

>x fountain
Trumpet Vine with its bright orange, conical flowers strangles what seems to be a marble fountain. Looking closer you see that the top of the fountain features a cherub giving a peace sign with one of its hands and is pointing at its feet with the other. You determine that when the water is actually flowing, the naked churub pees into the main basin. Disconcertingly, a vine has erupted from the cherub’s …ahem… and it dangles freely. You involuntarily wince.

Hmm, something seems to stick out here (no, not that):

>x feet
One of the fountain cherub’s hands deliberately points downward at its feet. Taking that as a message of a sort, you poke and prod the fountain, its basin, and the cherub statue thoroughly; almost find nothing of value. It’s when you inspect the fountain’s drain that you see a bronze key, green from age, stuck down inside. You poke at the drain’s cover but its screws are rusted too tightly to turn for anything less than a screwdriver.

That seems useful! I can’t remember, have we found a screwdriver anywhere?

>x screwdriver
A flathead screwdriver that is rusty from being underwater for too long.

Oh, we do have one!

(Checks inventory)

Oh, we don’t – it must be in the location somewhere, we just haven’t found it yet.

>take screwdriver
The body of the dead gardener is shallow enough in the pond that you can dip your arm into the water and pry the screwdriver from its death grip. The water is freezing cold and smells like it’s been steeped in… well, dead body.

I… feel like we might have skipped a few steps here. Let’s undo and take things more step by step.

>x birdbath
Morning Glory with bright, many-hued flowers has wrapped itself around what bears the shape of a birdbath.

You walk over to take a closer look at the birdbath, circling it, and to the west of it, your foot immediately sinks into the vine-covered ground. Ice-cold water floods into your boot and you struggle to break the vines that have helped snare your limb in this hidden water. In a panic you brace yourself on the birdbath, pulling your foot out of the mire, knocking over the birdbath in the process.

Your attention is split between the revelation that there’s a pond hidden here and the flat, inscribed stone that was under the birdbath.

There’s our pond!

>x pond
The cold water from the once-hidden pond squelches and croaks from your boot with every step you take. Now that you know it’s there, you can identify the depression that forms the line of this body of water. Vines cover the surface of the water, hiding it completely. You try pulling them aside so you can peer into the water but they’re too tautly strung. You’ll need something stronger than your bare hands to cut them.

When you push down on any portion of the vines, they undulate across the surface of the water, reminding you of the weird water bed your parents had for years. You shudder in disgust for multiple reasons.

>x stone
You take a closer look at the flat stone that was under the birdbath and scratched into is, “I hid the key from the vines when they weren’t looking. That made them angry.”

We’d already figured that out, but what I’m most curious about is how you can figure out when a vine “isn’t looking”.

>stand on pond
You can think of many, many perfectly sound reasons for why you don’t want to enter the pond. Mostly, however, the vines that cover it are too thick to pull apart for you to enter. You’ll need something stronger to cut the pond’s vines away.

Gee, it sure would be worth suffering even some minor inconvenience if we could find some sort of cutting implement around here!

>x hill
From the sloping roof it’s obvious that the massive pile of vines at the southeast corner of this garden is actually a shed. More Honeysuckle vine than man-made structure, it’s hard to see how the shed hasn’t yet been obliterated by the plants seeking to consume it. Despite the distractingly intoxicating smell of the Honeysuckle flowers, after a few minutes of poking around the structure you identify the location of the door.

A stout bronze padlock (in addition to layers upon layers of vines) keeps the shed’s door firmly closed. You also notice a shelf of gardening supplies just to the left of the structure, it too fully crocheted by vines.

A shelf, you say?

>x supplies
A wood 3-tiered shelf leans against the shed, fully ensconced in Honeysuckle. You paw through the vines to see cracked pots, broken seed trays, and a few rotted wooden stakes. The only thing of note is a jug of white vinegar.

>x vinegar
A gallon jug of white vinegar. The label is fairly faded but part of it reads, “Possible uses: cleaning appliances such as coffee makers, dishwashers, and washing machines, making hardboiled eggs easier to shell, deodorant, and pouring it on hard-to-pull weeds in your driveway to kill them.”

>take it

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

Aww, that’s too bad, vinegar is actually delicious (true story: I used to drink white vinegar straight when I was a kid. I thought I was very weird for doing this, but when I met my wife we realized she used to do that too!)

(Though maybe that points more towards “we’re both weird” than “I’m not weird”)

>put vinegar on ivy
Taking the jug of vinegar and following the instructions on the label for dealing with troublesome weeds, you pour it on the poison ivy vines guarding the garden shears. The effect is shockingly immediate and surprisingly, the vines audibly squeal in pain as they melt into goo. The garden shears are left unprotected.

>take shears
Now that awful poison ivy has been cleared away…


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

>cut pond
Using your newly-acquired garden shears you attack the vigorous vines covering the pond. After some thorough cutting you reveal the surface of the water.

>x water
After cutting away the vines sealing the pond like a thorny pool cover, you reveal most of the pond’s surface. The pond is surprisingly clear, even with the early evening’s sun ducking behind the horizon. The water is so clear in fact, that you can’t miss the rotted skeletal remains of a person sitting down at the bottom of the pond.

>x remains
The body of a person wearing gardening overalls and a rotted straw hat lies at the bottom of this once-hidden pond. Their flesh has mostly melted away, leaving a grinning skull that belies their violent end. Vines are hungrily wrapped around the gardener’s skeleton and one of the person’s hands still clutches at their own throat. Their other hand grasps a rusty screwdriver.

Ah, now we’re caught up. We take the screwdriver again and the message makes much more sense this time out!

>unscrew drain
Wielding the screwdriver you took from the dead body, you quickly remove the screws from the fountain’s drain cover. It’s short work from there to hook the key out from the drain pipe.

>unlock padlock with bronze key
The key from the fountain’s drain fits and turns in the padlock perfectly. You rip away the vines trapping the shed door and it swings open without a fuss.

You open the door further to allow you to pass through. You go inside the garden shed.

The Shambolic Shack (Michael Fessler)
A dimly-lit shack with crude plywood walls. An octagonal window set high on one wall admits a feeble shaft of moonlight. Rickety wire shelving sits precariously in one dimly lit corner, and a battered metal wheelbarrow rests in the opposite corner. A rough doorway leads back out.

Oh, this is a new location! I’ve gotten so used to authors using various Inform hacks to create pseudo-rooms I didn’t expect this to be a real transition point. Since it is, I go back and check the coffee in the back yard, confirming that we’re done.

Michael Fessler is new to me – checking IFDB his only other credit is as one of the co-authors on Coke Is It, a parody of corporate sponsorship from the late 90s (that is a very Gen-X issue, I feel like…)

>x walls
Simple plywood, somewhat the worse for wear, nailed together in a seeming hurry.

>x window
Moonlight struggles to make its way through the patina of dirt on the octagonal window mounted high up on one wall.

We must have spent a bunch of time messing about with that pond, since it went from sundown to night.

>x me
Just fine. I mean, you have a slightly distant gaze and a mild nervous twitch, but nothing a stiff drink and six weeks on a tropical beach wouldn’t put right. So basically fine, then.

We’re what, like 40% of the way into this game? It’s definitely going to get worse before it gets better.

>open window
It’s far out of reach.

>x shelving
Cheap wire shelving that has seen better days. It wobbles to the touch.

On the rickety wire shelving are some mildewed leather gloves.

>x gloves
A pair of malodorous gardening gloves spotted with what you presume is mildew. It’s particularly dense and pungent around the gloves’ opening.

>smell gloves
The overwhelming cloying fungal miasma hits you like a sledgehammer. Even the thought of bringing the mildewed leather gloves any closer to your face makes your stomach heave in preemptive protest.

Again with the fungus! Now that I know it’s a thing to watch out for, I’m definitely seeing it everywhere.

>take gloves
As you gingerly pick up the mildewed gardening gloves, a rust-streaked iron key hidden beneath them drops to the ground.

Oh, that’s intriguing.

These gloves seem a little dirty but basically fine, right?

>wear gloves
You pull the mildewed gloves onto your hands with a reluctant shudder. Your palms begin to itch almost instantly.

Er, maybe not.

>remove gloves
You take off the mildewed leather gloves.

>x me
You’re too preoccupied with the maddening itching to pay attention to how you look right now.

Ugh, I hate those kind of itches.

The itching of your hands grows maddening, and begins to work its way up your wrists. You feel feverish.

Feverishly excited about this key, you mean?

>take iron
(the hefty, rust-streaked iron key)

>x it
A hefty iron key, its wards streaked with rust.

Ooh, hefty. I wonder whether this is for a door we’ve already found – I could see this unlocking the church, maybe?

>push shelving
The shelves wobble but decline to collapse.

>climb shelving
Way too wobbly – you think better of it.

Nitocris is in a chaotic mood since she only has moments left to live, obviously.

There is a distinct fungal reek in the air, much of it coming from you.

The unbearable itching of your palms spreads in a wave up your arms and overtakes your entire body. As your vision fades, your last sight is of gray-blue fuzz thickening on your limbs, while a suffocating fungal miasma fills your mouth and nostrils.

*** You have fallen victim to a horrible fungal bloom ***

Who could have possibly predicted that? (I mean, everyone, I think that was a fairly-telegraphed death). I think this is the first time we can TAKE BACK:

The fungal infection retreats down your arms and the gloves fly off your hands.


We’ll hang onto these gloves though, they could make for a hilarious prank.

What else is in here?

>x wheelbarrow
A battered metal wheelbarrow. Or at least, it used to be when it still had a front wheel. With only a twisted axle remaining, I guess now it’s just a “barrow”. It is full of glistening black soil.

>x soil
Glistening black soil fills the wheelbarrow nearly to the brim. The soil’s surface heaves and churns. There is something alive in there.

We’ve been doing so well tempting fate:

>search it
You can see only the rippling surface of the soil. And there’s no way you’re digging around in there with your bare hands.
Whatever was in there seemed pretty hungry, though, maybe you could lure it out with the right snack?

Maybe whatever it is likes mushrooms?

>put gloves in soil
As you lower the mildewed leather gloves, the heaving surface of the soil is suddenly broken by a furiously working set of clattering mouth-parts and probing antennae – followed immediately by the first several inches of a centipede, yellow and chitinous, thick as an elephant’s trunk. The creature’s antennae, sampling the dank air, begin to strain toward the gloves.

You recoil, and snatch away the mildewed leather gloves. The giant centipede scuttles back into the soil. Apparently that wasn’t the snack it was hungry for.

Guess it isn’t in the mood for umami.

We try various likely candidates (the mask-leaf, the insect in a jar, the fungal powder from the bridge, the flowers, the desiccated rat – OK these are getting less likely as I go), but the centipede doesn’t take the bait, and the coffee confirms we need to search elsewhere.

Nitocris has accomplished a fair bit, but there’s just one more location to complete our circuit of the house, so let’s wrap that up before bringing the chapter to a close. We go out, then…


Outside the greenhouse (James Eagle)
The damp brick path that led you here bends around the squat porch of an old greenhouse half-swallowed by a tangle of bramble and ivy. Water drips from the thick branches overhead; in the undergrowth something - somethings? - creep and rustle.

The path curves away to northeast and southeast. You can also go in to the greenhouse from here.

Another debut author – per IFWiki, he tested one of Sam Kabo Ashwell’s games, though.

>x path
Ancient bricks, slippery with green mould and treacherously uneven.

>x porch
Only the porch - rotting wood and mildewed glass - remains unconsumed by vines and creepers too thick to allow you to tell how far back the greenhouse extends. A thick, clammy fog clings to the inside of the panes, and a ragged spiderweb hangs across the door. As you press your nose against the glass you think for a moment you see fingerlike fronds waving in the wind, deep inside.


I am not especially enthused about going in there.

>x me
Webs and leaf fragments cling where branches have brushed against you. Something tiny and blue-black scurries across your foot and slips into a crack in the brickwork.

Life – how revolting.

And that pretty much appears to be all there is to do here – the coffee says we can move on, so this is just a small, transitional area with some neat flavor text, which can be nice amongst the big puzzley rooms.

No putting it off though, in we go:

(concluded next post)


(Chapter the Ninth, concluded)

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund)
Nothing should be growing here anymore ? the heating and irrigation have been off for years ? but roots seem to have covered everything.

The walls curve inward, forming a huge dome, with a mesh of roots covering it from the floor up to about halfway to the ceiling. Sunlight still breaks through in places, throwing a pattern of bright spots across the room. The roots grow from an enormous tropical tree at the center of the greenhouse, towering all the way up to the ceiling, which it hides behind a thick crown of leaves.

A spiral staircase, seemingly woven of roots, leads to a circular mesh walkway higher up along the wall.

Something vaguely sculpture-like protrudes from the roots near the exit.

Oh, Petter Sjölund – probably best known as the current curator of Counterfeit Monkey (another giant game I have yet to play), though I believe he’s also done a bunch of technical stuff that I can’t claim to understand.

>x roots
It looks like a species of strangler fig, which has germinated in a crevice of the host tree, growing its roots downward and upward, enveloping everything in its way.

…“strangler fig” is a metaphor, right?

>x dome
The ceiling of the greenhouse dome is hidden behind the dark green crown of the tree.

>x tree
The moldy strangler fig roots cover the enormous trunk at the center of the greenhouse, seeming to melt into one another, making it impossible to tell what the host tree used to looked like. There are no branches within reach.

Again with the mold! It’s already a creepy tree, you’re gilding the lily, Petter.

>x leaves
There are many brown, decomposing leaves on the ground here.

>search them
You find nothing of interest.

>x staircase
When you get closer, the original iron staircase is visible through the coiled roots. It leads up to a root-covered mesh walkway that circles the greenhouse.

>x walkway
The root-covered walkway circles the greenhouse, but looks broken and bent in several places. A staircase leads up to it from here.

That seems super stable.

>x sculpture
This looks like some kind of garden ornament in the shape of a parrot. Through a web of roots and a yellow lichen that covers the white stone, two intensely red eyes made of some translucent material glare at you. The beak is open as if uttering a squawk. A pair of wings has apparently been broken off.

Umm, now that is a sculpture that makes a statement, and that statement is “I am terrifying.”

This puts me in mind of the Denver airport horse. A decade or so back, I wound up traveling to Denver a bunch of times for work. The airport’s located a fair ways out of town, kind of in the middle of nowhere, and as you drive towards it, in the middle of this mostly-empty landscape you come across this giant blue sculpture of a horse, rearing up, with, I swear to god, eyes that glow blood-red once the sun goes down. You look at this thing and think “I’m not the only one who thinks this is a devil horse, right?” and then you google and learn that a) no, you’re not the only one, and b) probably among those who shared your opinion is the original sculptor, who was crushed to death by the thing when a section of the work in progress collapsed on him.

Moral of the story, no more statues with red eyes, OK?

>x eyes
The red stare is tortured and hostile.

I repeat my plea.

>x wings
The wings that once adorned the parrot sculpture are thoroughly broken to bits, whether by roots and damp or by deliberate vandalism is hard to tell.

>ask parrot for cracker
You can’t see any such thing.

Playing it cool, huh, Polly? I see how it is.

>touch it
There is a slight trembling through the sculpture at your touch. Or was it only your imagination?

>rub it
You try to scrape off some of the fungus and lichen growing on the sculpture, but the stubborn roots keep getting in the way. Perhaps you should deal with them first.

>x roots
(the roots covering the sculpture)
A fine web of roots covers the sculpture, like cracks in old china.

>cut roots with shears
(the roots covering the sculpture with the pair of garden shears)
You have nothing suitable to cut with.

Right, these are vine shears – they aren’t rated for roots.

>pull roots
(the roots covering the sculpture)
You succeed in tearing off some of the thinner rootlets on the statue, but the roots are tougher than they look and hard to get a grip on.

Seems like we might need something more tailored to the issue at hand.

You climb the unstable staircase.

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund) (on the mesh walkway)
You’re up the mesh walkway circling the greenhouse partway up the wall. The roots have grown into the iron mesh and railing as well, twisting it and breaking it apart. Between the roots and sharp metal edges there is hardly room to stand, but the branches stretching finger-like from the lower part of tree look sturdy and climbable.

The spiral staircase leads back down.

A strange rootlet-covered wooden handle sticks out from the rubble of roots and twisted metal.

>x handle
It is hard to tell among the roots, but it looks like the handle of a knife. Perhaps it could be pulled out.

>take it
You pull on the wooden handle. It gives an inch, and some of the roots that hold it snap. You pull again, harder this time, and with a metallic screech and a cloud of spores you find yourself holding a machete in your hand.

Ah, now this seems promising (the knife I mean, not the spores. Damn spores). I’m betting this will do for the statue, and maybe the dog-stomach too?

We go back down, and – drumroll…

>cut roots
(the roots covering the sculpture)
The machete is too dull to cut anything. You wish you had something to sharpen it with.

Something of an anticlimax! Looks like we’ll need the whetstone from the pub to sharpen 'er up.

It seemed like we could still try climbing higher up, though, let’s do that then wrap up. Back up on the walkway:

You hold onto one of the more sturdy-looking branches and carefully move toward the tree at the center of the room.

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund) (up the tree)
You’re on one of the thick lower branches of the tree. The strangler fig roots cover the host tree completely. A sturdy, root-covered branch has grown into the walkway circling the greenhouse.

The branches above you look surprisingly climbable.

>x branch
Here the root-covered branches are thick and sturdy, growing almost horizontally. To the west, it is possible to climb to the walkway circling the greenhouse.
Heights have always frightened you. Steeling yourself, you grab hold of the sturdiest branch you can find and pull yourself up. Your hands are trembling and slippery with sweat.

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund) (higher up the tree)
You are among the murkier branches higher up the tree. Trying your best not to look down, it is still obvious that you would not survive a fall from this height. Here, gaps between the strangler fig roots reveal the original host tree, which looks like an African fern pine. Through a small hole in the host tree, you can see the strangler fig growing like a spinal cord through its hollow trunk. The tree continues upwards.

I am much less concerned about the heights here than about what happens if this tree decides it doesn’t like me rooting around in its, er, roots.

>x fern
Here, gaps between the strangler fig roots reveal the original host tree, which looks like an African fern pine. The original bark has been stripped bare in a wide circle around the trunk by the strangler fig, effectively killing the host. Thick root-covered branches lead up and down from here.

That word “effectively” sure seems more ambiguous than I’d like.

Ignoring your sweaty palms and pounding heart, you force yourself higher. It’s getting difficult to even find room to move between the branches and pointy twigs. You are starting to feel dizzy.

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund) (even higher up the tree)
Up here the tree is more like a thicket of thin, sharp, dead twigs, with flowering roots spiraling between them. There are some huge bones among the twigs and leaves ? the skeleton of some prehistoric aquatic beast once mounted here, suspended from the ceiling by metal wires, now twisted and broken by the relentless growth of the tree. It seems possible to climb still higher from here.

Remember up-thread how I said being fully enclosed by vegetation is a particular fear of mine? …yeah.

>x twigs
The dead branches are thin, sharp and numerous, like a thicket.

>take them
You don’t need any branches. Besides, there is something sticky about them that makes you reluctant to touch them.

>x roots
Up here where there is more sunlight, the strangler figs bear green leaves and flowers and fruit among the dead branches of the African fern pine.

>x leaves
Up here the green, sticky leaves grow huge and are difficult to move between.

>x flowers
The strangler fig flowers are large and white with a blood red circle across the petals.

>take flowers
You’d rather not touch them unless you have to.

X FRUIT says the fig doesn’t bear any fruit, though, which is confusing.

>smell them
Everything in this humid air smells of rot and mold.

>x bones
The bones are black with yellow fungal growth, and swing unnervingly from their wires. Probably made of painted plaster of Paris, they might once have formed the skeleton of some kind of elasmosaurus.

>search bones
You find nothing of interest.

>take bones
The bones are still firmly attached to their wires, and far too bulky to carry anyway.

We’ve had such good luck with bones to date, figured it was worth a try.

You climb higher. It feels like crawling through a thorny bush. The entire crown of the tree sways along with your every move, and the glass ceiling crackles like thin ice. Sweat trickles into your eyes. Did you black out there for a moment? You feel like throwing up.

Greenhouse (Petter Sjölund) (top of the tree near the ceiling)
The entire treetop sways from your weight, up and down, this way and that. You are close enough to the glass ceiling to see the blue sky and bright sunshine outside.

Something is hidden behind the tightly woven branches and leaves here.

There is a loud squawk next to your ear. Everything goes black. You fall.

Then consciousness returns. Only a second has passed. You are still falling. Instinctively you reach for something to grab onto, but every time you think you’ve got a hold on the sharp twigs and slithery leaves they slip out of your grasp.

But you keep trying, and eventually your fall slows down and the branches stop giving way below you. With a final lurch you find yourself swinging astride one of the lower branches of the tree, cut and bruised and in shock but still breathing.

Yeesh! Still, feels like we got out of that super lightly.

Let’s call it here, wrapping up with the X ME I forgot to do when we came into the greenhouse:

You are scratched and bleeding. You have minor bruises all over, and a huge aching
one your leg.

(I wonder if that changes after the fall?)

Well, that completes our circuit – I confirm going SE from the greenhouse gets us back to the driveway. Next time, we’ll see if that iron key unlocks any of the doors we’ve previously been stymied by, and very likely take our first tremulous steps into the eldritch confines of… CRAGNE MANOR.


a grimy rock
some rotten flowers
a broken knife handle
a dull machete
some mildewed leather gloves
a hefty, rust-streaked iron key
a bronze key green from age
a rusty flathead screwdriver
a pair of garden shears
a gallon jug of white vinegar
The Lives of the Roman Emperors
a pewter box (smelling faintly of mildew) (open but empty)
a bronze urn (open but empty)
a key from an urn
a silver urn (open but empty)
a copper urn (open but empty)
a trolley schedule
a trolley pass (being worn)
a small blue journal (which you know is a journal because it says “Mein Journal” on the front)
Ed’s coveralls (being worn)
a bottle of Pepto-Bismol
a torn notebook
an enormous dessicated rat corpse
a thin steel key
a piece of yellowed newsprint
a brass nameplate
a cast iron spire
loose bricks
a clipboard
a black business card
a trophy for a dog race
a half-full styrofoam coffee cup
a glass shard
a familiar gold wristwatch
a giant milkweed leaf (smelling faintly of mildew)
a label
an antique locket (closed)
a backpack features guide
a glass jar containing an insect
a book list (smelling faintly of mildew)
the diary of Phyllis Cragne
a postcard of Big Ben
The Modern Girl’s Divination Handbook – Volume Three
a Jansport backpack (open)
a hidden pocket (open but empty)
a key pocket (open but empty)
a book pocket (open)
a moldy, waterlogged journal
a side pocket (open but empty)
a trash pocket (open but empty)
Peter’s jacket
a brass winding key
a suitcase (open but empty)
a plastic bubble (open but empty)
a golden eyepiece
a pull-string doll
a waterproof flashlight
a repaired page
a wad of cash
a library card (smelling faintly of mildew)
a long hooked pole
a soggy tome
an employee ID card
a shard of shattered carapace (smelling faintly of mildew)
a fungal powder
some yellowed newspapers
a rusty piece of metal
an aluminum key
a pamphlet of home listings
a hovering spark (haunting you)


Cragne session 9.txt (250.7 KB)

cragne session 9 save.txt (56.7 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: ???
  • Under the Bridge: rusty hatch
  • 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

Thanks so much! That’s definitely the plan.

Oh yeah, that is definitely right.

Ah, that I recognize! I blame Vatican II, but for that I totally would have gotten the reference.

So there’s agreement on the “prepared” vs an imperative “prepare (yourself)” – seems like a dangling clause but ominous nonetheless.

I hadn’t twigged to the rain yet at this point – if you leave and come back to the location, there’s some pre-location text mentioning that it’s raining, and it’s reflected in several descriptions of scenery, though.

Oh, I meant the description of the headstone (X BLANK) – fair enough that the grave isn’t included in that, I suppose, but I’d kind of forgotten the location description mentioning the grave by the time I was this deep into scenery-examination mode.

Basically – though there’s one more urn, I think (silver, bronze, and copper – plus the china one that falls apart).

Very true! Though another theory is that the town library system visits the sins of the fathers upon their progeny, so poor Peter – and by extension us – is on the hook for Great-Aunt Zadie’s delinquent habits.

…though I think this is the best theory of them all.


Did we achieve anything by climbing up to the top of the tree? It sounds like we grabbed something—was that “a grimy rock” at the top of our inventory, or did that come from somewhere else?

As someone with a terrible fear of heights, the climb wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be. I think part of it is difficulty with visualization; I imagine greenhouses being pretty small, by default, definitely not tall enough that you would die from falling 3/4 of the way up.

The strangling fig, though, is very cool. And hey, someone understands the importance of bones of ancient sea creatures! With the top branches scratching the ceiling, I have to imagine it’s those bones (replicas though they may be) lending the whole place its structural integrity.