Let's Play: Cragne Manor

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I was about to make a Music Man joke (since a key plot point in that show revolves around the difference between a pool table and a billiards table) but…yeah, I’m good with skimming this room and moving on to what’s next.


Chapter the Twelfth: A Head for Music

When we left off, Nitocris had finally made her way into Cragne Manor and started her investigations, failing to find her husband also failing to find much else of note beyond a nicely-implemented spice rack and a tentacle that bequeathed god-like power. This update, things uh change.

Moving past the interstitial issue mentioned two posts above, we breeze through the Rec Room and head east through its one exit to find ourselves in:

The Music Room (Wade Clarke)
You are in a large modern studio space, not unlike a concert hall but without any seating. Dark, golden-hued wooden paneling lines the floor and walls, imbuing the area with an intimate atmosphere in spite of its size. The walls curve inwards in what appears to be a carefully designed asymmetrical fashion (some kind of acoustic treatment?) and electric-bulbed faux chandeliers fill the place with ruddy light.

A doorway leads out of the music room to the west.

Standing against the center of the eastern wall, facing you, is a mahogany podium with four push-buttons on it.

A woman’s voice suddenly makes you jump: “Are you interested in the future? I am. It’s where I’m going.”

You look around, see no-one, but the voice fills the air. Where is it coming from?

“Welcome. I am Francine Cragne, and you are privileged to be able to learn something about me and my work here in the music room. A room that I built, I might add, and a room where only people welcomed by me are allowed. This rules out almost everyone in the old Vermont family from which I spurted and crawled. You got over the threshold, so I know you’re not one of them.”

Glancing back towards the entry, you now perceive a faint symbol on the floor.

The Francine voice continues: “My work is music. At least that’s what I tell people when they ask, because everyone thinks they know something about music. But in the case of any one thing that you think you know about, there are still a million things about that thing that you don’t know, right?”

The voice could be a woman in her twenties or thirties. It’s a little harsh, a little breathy, with a confrontational quality. You suddenly wonder: Is this live or a recording?

“Well, what if the part of something that you didn’t know about was as deep and as dark as a black hole in space?”

- this last bit said in a strangely drawn-out way. You’re already tired of this Francine’s indulgences, but you sense that you’re going to have to keep indulging them if you want to find your husband.

Ah, another friend of the thread! @severedhand wrote Six, a lovely hide-and-seek game with a lot of neat bells and whistles (it came second in the 2011 Comp), and is currently running a Kickstarter for a new installment in the multiauthor Andromeda series of sci-fi games – hopefully y’all who can are already backing it, but if not you should definitely pitch in!

…as to what’s going on in his room, Francine already sounds like a lot, but I’m sure she’ll grow on us.

I’m trying to be better about X ME so I’m not forever cramming them in at the end, so let’s start with that:

>x me
You dressed sensibly for the journey to Cragne Manor because you had no idea what would be in store for you. You remain uncertain about what may be in store for you.

The voice says: "You’ve also got a problem with my family, I can tell. Is it to do with your husband? I think we could be be good for each other, you and me. Is why more important than how? No. Here’s how: The crimson button starts and stops my music. The plus button toggles my additive synthesis process. The minus button toggles my subtractive synthesis process. The LFO button toggles my frequency-modulating process.

“Say HELP if you want a reminder of all that later. Say it aloud. I’ll hear you. And no, you won’t need anything from outside this room.”

(You can use these commands for short:
c or crimson = Press crimson
+ or plus = Press plus
- or minus = Press minus
lfo = press LFO)

Oh, OK, Francine is still talking, and even tutorializing! The level of detail on the synthesizer is intimidating. Like, in that band I was in in college, I played drums, less due to an innate sense of rhythm and more because I’m a little tone-deaf. That LFO thing seems especially iffy – weren’t they that band that did that “if you steal my sunshine” song from the turn of the millennium?

…alright, I’m now being informed in fact they’re that bad that did that “I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch” song. This place is already horrifying!

What’d she say about a symbol?

>x symbol
A distorted, oval-shaped spiral symbol is just visible all around the base of the doorway into this room, as if an oily drink had been spilled. Its lines have an indistinct quality that frustrates the eye. You can’t tell what it’s made of, if anything. Your initial passage across it into the room didn’t disturb it.

This is all just saying “there’s something creepy here”, but I like the description.

>x paneling
The music room is definitely well appointed. Unlike some other parts of Cragne Manor.

>x dust
You can’t see any such thing.

Checks out.

>x podium
The wood is strong, perfectly fitted and sealed. You find it can’t be moved, though it doesn’t look heavy. On top of the podium are four buttons. No cables or power sources are visible, but this is obviously a device you can operate.

Seems like there’s not much to do except check out our cousin(?)-in-law’s music – Nitocris will try to plaster a neutral look on her face to avoid giving offense, but our expectations are low.

You press the crimson button and it lights up.

A slow, pulsing beat begins to play in the room. Each beat is like the thump of a drum and is followed by a thin, hissing sound. You picture a not-real ocean wave receding in the distance.

The podium hums with some kind of energy.

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

I guess the beat’s too slow for that.

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

Okay, okay, Francine isn’t especially interested in collaborators.

…we gotta try that LFO thing first.

You press the LFO button and it lights up. The music begins to undulate rhythmically.

The air trembles and your surroundings change.

You are in a small, damp-smelling circular chamber flagged in an iridescent sea green. There’s a hole in the ceiling leading into a sloped shaft, and a drainage grille in the floor. The plinking of distant water echoes up through the grille. Some weak bluish light bounces down into the chamber from the shaft. The light catches scratches on the floor.

You see a child’s kaleidoscope tube set on a metal stand, like a telescope.

The mahogany podium is here. Somehow it didn’t seem to move at all during… whatever just happened.

Though your surroundings have changed, Francine’s music continues to play as if you were still in the music room.

Woah! We’re in another of those rooms with sub-locations, and this one seems kinda weird and Twin-Peaks-y (l’oreille is French for “the ear”, which is maybe a clue?)

In the transcript, you’ll see that I started pushing buttons at random to see if there were other sub-areas too since this seemed like a spooky one to start with – there are, and flitting through them would be pretty confusing so I’ll skip past that experimentation to just run through each area as I explored it in detail. We start with this much more normal one (I think found by pushing the + button and nothing else):

You press the plus button and it lights up. Some colder, high frequency tones begin to wash over the beats.

The air trembles and your surroundings change.

Living Room
You’re in a rather forbidding living room. The chairs and table are all of some incredibly dark wood, the green carpet beneath them even darker. Vertical stripes of a complex red floral pattern on the wallpaper make the high ceiling seem even further away than it must be. A wide window in the west wall admits early afternoon light through its dirty glass, along with a view of nothing but sky and clouds.

The room is cold.

There are closed doors to the north and east.

A red telephone is mounted on the wall.

The mahogany podium is here. Somehow it didn’t seem to move at all during… whatever just happened.

Though your surroundings have changed, Francine’s music continues to play as if you were still in the music room.

Okay this isn’t exactly welcoming but it’s much less – well I can’t say exactly what that ear room was, but whatever it was, this has less of it.

After we take stock with an X ME to figure out whether we’re changing or just our surroundings (turns out it’s the latter, we remain our “normal” self through all this), something happens:

The phone begins to ring.

>x phone
It looks pretty vintage. The receiver sits on a hook beside the phone body between calls.

The phone’s ringing.

>answer phone
You pick up the phone and offer a tentative, “Hello?”

“I knew you’d be there,” says a male voice. “We know you’ve been conjuring up shit even your family doesn’t know about. You’ll need to share that power with us. The first thing that will happen if you don’t is we’ll tell your old man what you’ve been doing. The second thing that will happen is that we will completely fuck you up. Even worse than what you did to David. So pack your shit and come into Burlington tomorrow. Meet me at The Carfax at ten PM. I won’t ask twice.”

The line goes dead.

While we may look like Nitocris as per usual, this seems to indicate when we’re here, we’re actually Francine, or experiencing her memories, or something like that? Anyway, we’re on the outs with our family and we’ve done something terrible to someone named David, I think we can roleplay that.

The Carfax is presumably named after Carfax Abbey, the name of the English estate Dracula purchases in the Stoker novel – so I’m guessing that’s the local Goth club, and I gotta say, the prospect of visiting a Goth club in Burlington, Vermont (population 40k) is a pretty bleak one even before the threatening occult mafia folks start getting into the mix.

I try to hang up the phone, and when that command doesn’t work I write DROP PHONE, only to get this response:

You don’t think it’s a good idea to leave anything here. You don’t know exactly what’s happening, or how it’s happening, or whether you’ll be able to return later.

That’s helpful, means we don’t need to worry about losing stuff.

We take a look at the decor before we wrap up here for now:

>x chairs
All sharp corners and no cushioning, plus they seem to devour light. Meals in this room must be pretty joyless.

>x table
The dining table has been varnished to a near-black sheen. It’s an oppressive object.

>x window
Bobbing your head about until you find an angle from which you’re able to see through the bleary old panes, you realize why only the sky was visible at first. The room you’re in is high up, so you have to be close to the glass before you can see all the way down to the ground. You recognize the grounds of of Cragne Manor out there.

I wonder if we’ll find this living room later, on the second floor? (I’m guessing not due to the lack of coordination but in-universe maybe there’ve been some renovations since Francine’s day)

Unsurprisingly, we can’t just poke around willy-nilly in the past – at least, I’m assuming we’re in the past:

As you move in that direction, the background music becomes fainter and murkier, as does all sound in the room. You sense that you’re stepping outside some area which is the focus of the music. The further you move away from the focus, the more the music dissolves and the less comfortable you feel. Your physical movements start to become restricted, as if you were wading into a narrowing corridor of thick mud.

Each step brings an alarming increase in nauseating sensations and disorientation until, almost sick, you rush back into the focal area. The music returns in full and you experience immediate relief.

Now we hit -, so both that and the + buttons are lit up:

You press the minus button and it lights up. Some kind of dampening effect starts to happen in the music, as if you’d put your fingers in your ears.

The air trembles and your surroundings change.

Club Backstage
You’re in a dark, smoke and sweat-smelling hallway. A concert of churning metal music is going on in a room nearby, a muted version of it reaching you through the walls. Here, the floor and air vibrate in occasional sympathy. This place is barely lit by a procession of cool-looking but unhelpful metal-hooded hanging lightbulbs. The hallway becomes a T-junction at both its north and south ends.

Displayed on the wall here are a gig poster, a newspaper clipping, a wanted poster of a woman, a large photograph and a wanted poster of a man.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

(Underneath cold and muffled tones, a dull beat plays in the background.)

Let’s check something:

>x gig
Printed on the gig poster in hectic green and black writing that you can barely read is:

Coming up at The Carfax!

Blindly In The Mist
Bread Loaf Mountaineers
Pyramidial Tension
Xavier feat. The Cosmos
Francine C

Each of these bands’ logos fights for space on the poster in a cacophony of typefaces.

Yup, as suspected, the Carfax is a club, and now we’re here – though based on the names of the bands I’m not sure it caters to Goths specifically. “Bread Loaf Mountaineers” for example sounds like an indie band made up of English grad students, since Bread Loaf is a famous Vermont writer’s retreat named after a local mountain. Anyway there don’t seem to be any goons immediately about, thank goodness, so we can take in more of our surroundings.

>read clipping
The article reads:


(Cassandra Campbell. Backwater Banner, August 26, 1994.)

Local Backwater musician Francine Cragne has been charged with misdemeanor assault after audience members alleged she threw real blood on them at the end of a musical performance.

Miss Cragne, twenty-three years of age and who goes by the stage name Francine C, ended her encore at The Carfax Club on August 19 by emptying the red liquid contents of a vial over front row patrons. Cragne is known for her morbid on-stage theatrics, and the wet patrons assumed they had been sprayed with stage blood. It was only after leaving the club that audience members had the opportunity to properly smell and inspect the fluid. Some claimed it was real blood and returned to the venue to complain. Miss Cragne had already left The Carfax for the night.

“I thought Francine was the bomb before this,” said Burlington resident Robert Aspin, who attended Miss Cragne’s August 19 show. “She does a lot of wild stuff, but I’m grossed out by this. Plus I don’t want AIDS or nothing. I don’t know where that blood came from.”

Backwater Police picked up Miss Cragne the next day at Cragne Manor, her family home in Backwater. When asked by this reporter if she had any comment to make regarding the accusation that she had thrown her own blood on Carfax Club patrons, Cragne replied, “You think I’d throw someone else’s blood on them?”

Miss Cragne was charged on August 20 and released on bail. The Carfax Club’s management have declined to comment on the incident.

Honestly I’m barely paying attention to Francine’s edgelord antics, I’m just continuing to be pumped every time I’m reminded that we correctly figured out that Backwater has its own police force rather than relying on the county sheriff.

>x wanted poster of a woman
The grainy, xeroxed black and white poster says “WANTED: FRANCINE C”. A big-mouthed woman in a ratty dress scowls into the camera, her hair feral, her attitude rock star. Francine Cragne.

>x man
(the wanted poster of a man)
This crumpled xerox is an FBI wanted poster for the serial killer Ted Bundy. He went to the chair years ago, as you recall.

>x large photo
The foot-long photo shows a laughing woman stepping at an angle towards the camera, as if to go past the photographer. Tight on her stocky body is a dark, satiny but scummy-looking floral dress, artfully torn in a few places or perhaps just worn out. Shoving a great mass of grungy red hair back behind one ear as she leaves, she has an obvious rock star fierceness about her. Her eyes are far apart and narrow, though you can’t see into them in this photo, but her squishy-lipped mouth is flung open in laughter, revealing somewhat wonky and frightening teeth. Her skin is an oily white, her face scarred and with spots.

The photo’s background of a plain, cream-colored wall certainly throws this hectic-looking individual into relief.

Comparing this photo to the adjacent wanted poster of the scowling woman, it’s apparent that the woman in the photo is also Francine. In fact the images come from the same time and place. It looks like she posed for a photo to be used on the wanted poster, then broke the pose, started to laugh, stepped off her spot, and was snapped again as she did so.

So Francine definitely has the Innsmouth Look, and sure seems like she’s trying very hard to get back at her parents.

Wonder if we can get a souvenir?

>take gig
The gig poster’s barely attached to the wall by a single piece of rotten tape. As you dither about whether it would be okay for you to tamper with the venue’s display, the poster falls off the wall on its own. You pick it up, still finding yourself glancing around to see if there’s any Scotch tape handy you could use to put it back. There isn’t. It seems the poster is now yours, in spite of your hang-ups about this sort of thing.

Are these really just memories? Us setting an intention to have the poster, and then it falling of its own accord, is a spooky kind of coincidence.

We can’t take anything else here, interestingly enough.

Let’s try one more new location – this is just the minus button:

>push +
You press the plus button. Its light goes out. The high frequency tones fade out of the music.

The air trembles and your surroundings change.

Girl’s bedroom
You’re beside the bed at the south end of a long, narrow bedroom with a hardwood floor and dingy wallpaper. Straight away you have a feeling you’re still in Cragne Manor.

At the north end of the room is an open window. Shrubbery nudges at the frame, and an early evening sky and stars are visible beyond. The lights are off so the only illumination comes from the early evening glow. A stack of shelves crammed with books and old-fashioned toys sits to the left of the window. A chair and a messy table sporting a reel-to-reel tape recorder are to the right. The bedroom door is directly behind you, to the south. There’s a light switch next to the door.

A pale girl dressed in black satin pajamas hunches cross-legged on the floor by the window. You’d guess she’s around ten years old.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

The girl is chanting with her eyes closed, a pained tension playing at the corners of her wide mouth, her right arm upraised to extend two fingers toward the ceiling, her left arm downturned to point two fingers at a piece of paper on the floor in front of her. You notice something dripping from her fingers onto the paper, and though there’s not much light in here, the dark streamers visible against her skin suggest blood.

The girl chants: “Francine, rancine, ancine, en-seen, seen, een, enn, ee, Francine, rancine, ancine, en-seen, seen, een, enn, ee.”

(A steady but dulled beat plays in the background. There’s also a separate high-pitched tone in the air. It feels more present, as if it’s coming out of something in this room.)

Given the repeated detail of the wide mouth, this seems like it’s gotta be a younger version of Francine, though not sure why she’s chanting her own name in whatever conjuring type ritual she’s experimenting with here?

>x girl
She’s a sickly little thing. Her hair is a knotted dark red tangle that evolves into a bunch of corkscrews and rat tails where it falls over her shoulders.

That’s funny – based on what we’ve seen of her later in life, I wouldn’t describe her as “sickly”.

As we’re checking things out, the chanting continues, ultimately coming to a climax:

The girl continues to chant over the paper, the intensity in her young voice increasing:

The girl’s voice is growing hoarse from the repetition of the chant -

As the voice circles itself, the room starts to blur. The music that followed you here from the music room begins to sink away. You feel an intense nausea and headache coming on, and you fall to your knees, trembling.

Just as you’re on the verge of passing out, you realise the girl has stopped chanting. The unbearable sensations recede.

Gathering yourself up, you look to the girl. Her eyes are open, and though she’s flushed from her exertions, she appears calm, even tranquil. She looks down at the paper on the floor. Then she considers her left hand, the bloodied one.

With a single forceful movement she shoves the hand in her mouth and down her throat. She gags and chokes, her face turns red and her body quakes. Then, as if pulling a cork from a bottle, she yanks her hand free and vomits pointedly all over the picture in front of her.

Looking as devastated as a far older woman who’s just given birth, the girl crawls forward through the steaming mess and lifts her paper out of it. Though dripping, it’s still in one piece.

Jesus! Even by the standards of black magic, that was pretty intense, much less for a ten year old to be performing on her own.

>x paper
(the piece of paper)
All you can make out from here is that there’s a drawing on it.

Suddenly the girl stands and turns to you. You’d swear she was looking straight at you, except that those widely set eyes of hers are unfocused.

“Are you still there?” she asks in a harsh whisper. “I feel you. I must have called you. I don’t know how, but I trust myself.” The girl’s eyes roll around with a beseeching madness that is upsetting to see in her young face.

I repeat – are we sure these are just memories?

>x recorder
As the tape threads its way through the recorder, it slides over a wire tied around the recording head. The wire is connected to a barely visible triangle (the musical instrument) suspended from the ceiling. The wire seems to vibrate the triangle, a sound which in turn is amplified by the recorder and played back as a constant, high, almost inaudible but still unpleasant tone into the room.

The girl darts her head about like a little bird, searching but not finding. It makes you wonder if you’re really here.

She turns away abruptly and begins a new chant: “Thine nine, I am thine, thine nine, return in time.” Muttering a nonsensical stream of similar phrases, she takes her picture over to the window, sits on the floor, folds the picture into a paper plane, stands again and throws the plane out the window. Then she sniffs and rubs her nose on her pajama sleeves.

She turns to face approximately in your direction again. The door to the room is thrown open behind you and the girl cowers. Someone enters the room in a thunderous way. The room floods with light from the doorway as this person seems to tramp into the very space you occupy. Your body jolts and so does the background music.

(press SPACE to continue)

…and that dumps us back to the music room, with the sound off.

That’s a lot to take in. The “return in time” business maybe means the ritual is what’s responsible for us seeing these memories? Or maybe she sent that drawing back in time as a paper airplane (though why would she do that?) And much more concretely, her response to whoever came through that door sure seems to indicate that there’s some non-supernatural abusive stuff happening in this house too. Things are getting dark, and not in a fun-time-y giant psychic squid sort of way.

Let’s try to go back and see what we missed. We start up the music again and push minus again…

Teen girl’s bedroom (in the closet)
You’re in a closet. You smell sex. The closet doors are mostly but not fully closed because they’re broken, sitting off-axis and admitting light through gaps at the top and bottom, and through a few inches between the doors.

Woah, OK. Seems like the same place but a significantly later time.

To your great mortification, you can see two teenagers getting dressed through those few inches. You also recognise that cast-iron bed behind them. The little girl’s room.

A red-headed teenage girl who looks about sixteen pulls a check flannel shirt on over her singlet. She stares at the ceiling as she does so, as if she expects something to appear there. The boy is dragging his jeans on. He has a lot of wild black hair and is the palest person you’ve ever seen.

“It didn’t work,” says the girl.

“Speak for yourself,” says the boy.

Willing yourself to shrink, you hold your body rigid in the closet. That’s when you notice the temperature is plummeting. The closet starts to shake, so does the bed, and suddenly the whole room is subject to a minor earthquake.

“Holy shit! Francine?” says the boy, grabbing the bedhead. Francine looks thrilled, then terrified.

“The circle!” she screams. “You broke the circle! Where’s the chalk? Where’s the fucking chalk? Find it, find it, find it or we’re dead!”

We waste a turn looking around to figure out where the chalk is because this seems important – but for some reason X CHALK has us look at the library-book-obsessed ghost who’s been following us around. And then:

The earthquake intensifies so that there’s nothing more to reality than incredibly violent motion. Everyone screams, the sound merging with the bestial roar of some third party whose black form erupts through the floor of the bedroom. It takes all of you.

*** The End ***

…we undo, cursing teenagers messing around with sex magic rituals they’re not truly in control of (though I’m sure Nitocris has a few similar incidents of her own to look back on).

Maybe let’s check out some of the other locations. We go back to the living room, and something’s changed there:

It’s night time. All is dark out the western window. The chairs and table are as they were the last time you saw them. This room is even colder and more lonely at night.

>>x window
This window was pretty non-communicative in the day. It turns out you can’t see anything through it at night.

It was afternoon before, so maybe this is later? Of course it could be earlier by more than a day. Not going to lie, this is all fairly disorienting, it’s challenging to figure out how all these pieces fit – and we’ve actually only seen the half of it.

Well, slightly less than half – we’ve now explored areas accessible by pressing + (the living room), - (bedroom), and both + and - (club), all with that lfo button un-pressed. There are four more possibilities if we toggle lfo on too (including the orielle area we immediately noped out of).

I start out by trying to press all three buttons, which as we guessed gets us to a brand-new place:

You’re in a clearing in a forest and it is night. A freezing wind blows, the tree branches thrashing to form frightening silhouettes. Moonlight shines through a gap in a starless, clouded sky to illuminate the immediate area.

Dingy shapes on the ground begin to resolve themselves as your eyes adjust. The shapes are actually a someone. A white-skinned woman dressed all in black, spreadeagled on her back. Where is her head? Squinting into the darkness, you begin to apprehend a great rambling stain where the head should be. This bloodstain rolls outwards, as if someone had upended a can of paint, and suddenly you can smell the sting of all that blood in the air, though it’s tossed about by the wind.

The woman’s sweater has been lifted up to the level of her chest. There are marks on her exposed stomach.

An awful scene of freezing cold misery.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

(Strange music plays in the background. Beats, pulses and dissonant high notes move in and out of time. The whole piece ripples up and down in frequency.)

Ah, shit, this seems very bad!

…a pale woman – is that Francine? Without her red head and wide mouth, it’s hard to tell.

>x woman
You want to understand more about what’s happened here, or why, or who this is, but it’s dark and you’re numb and afraid. Your mind feels like it’s retreated under a rock.

Usually I think Nitocris is too hardened against creepy activity to put much stock in responses like this, but in this one case, I could definitely see her being taken aback!

>x stain
There’s no sign of the woman’s head. Just blood everywhere that looks black in this moonlight.

>x marks
Written in blood on her stomach is “FUCK YOU”.

Yeah let’s get out of here. We de-select +, so now it’s just - and lfo:



(Chapter the Twelfth, continued)

You’re in a brick basement bathed in the dismal glow of a single red-tinted lightbulb. A curved wooden writing desk sits directly beneath the bulb. The shelf-covered walls bulge with miscellaneous old hardware and junk, and a ten foot staircase leads up to the basement door. A freezer chest in the corner emits a low hum. The air down here smells metallic and unpleasant.

On the desk you see a newspaper clipping and two torn sheets of paper.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

(Music consisting mostly of a muffled beat rolls around uncomfortably in the background.)

OK this isn’t great, but it’s a marked improvement over where we were!

As we check things out, we’re occasionally told we “hear someone moving around upstairs” – probably don’t want to attract their attention, whoever they are.

The basement smells of old junk and mustiness.

Yeah, could be a lot worse.

>x desk
On the writing desk are a newspaper clipping, the first diary page and the second diary page.

>x freezer
It looks like it’s from the 1970s. Something about that brown faux-wood vinyl finish on the lid.

>open it
You lift the freezer lid and rest it against the basement wall. A cloud of ice vapor plumes from the chest. When it clears, you see there’s just one thing inside. An object wrapped in black plastic trash bags.

>x object
You pull carefully at the wrappings. The weight of the thing inside resists. After some fiddling, the first layer comes off, revealing another bag. You unwind it from around the object, disturbed to feel something alternately organic and hard passing beneath your fingers through the plastic.

The second layer eventually comes off, revealing a third bag. You can tell the thing is inside it.

You ease the mouth of the bag downwards. Something like a twinkling jewel appears in the opening. You lean closer to try to understand. Then you understand. A frost-dusted eye, the blank gaze of death. A woman’s plump but slack, cyanotic-hued lips.

Your heart and stomach both start at once and you wheel away, belching violently. Stomach acid comes scalding into your mouth. Gradually, the physical shock passes.


You’d think I would have learned, from back at the meatpacking plant bathroom, not to say things like “could be worse.”

(Again, I’m digging the writing here; the violent belching is a well-observed detail, and “the physical shock passes” creates a subtle negative inference that the mental one hasn’t).

On the plus side, I’m guessing this head matches the body we just left.

Let’s, uh, collect ourselves for a minute by checking out the reading material.

>read clipping


(Edna Johnson. Backwater Banner, October 27, 1995.)

Sources close to several ongoing murder investigations in The Kingdom have revealed to the Backwater Banner that the investigators believe they may be dealing with a serial killer. One whose modus operandi includes chopping off heads.

When the headless corpse of a man was found on farmland outside of Hardwick in September last year, the sensational story was widely reported in local news. The man remains unidentified and the murder remains unsolved. What authorities haven’t made public, but which the Banner can now confirm, is that two more headless corpses have been found in similar circumstances along the banks of the Lamoille River over the past year. The first corpse was that of a woman, the second that of another man.

Vermont State Police Commander Keith Browne, Jr. has refused to offer any comment to the Banner on what he described as “this highly sensitive murder investigation.”

“I urge the press not to re-publish irresponsible rumors that could interfere with police work,” the commander said on Tuesday.

The Banner advocates a free press and believes citizens have a right to know about highly unusual dangers in their state.

The date here puts this a year and a bit after the clipping we found in the club about Francine’s brush with the law after her cut-rate G.G. Allin routine. The “Kingdom” referenced in the lede is Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom”, which is the name for the region of the state in the northeastern corner, right up against the Canadian border; it’s isolated and mountainous, and pretty much where I figured Backwater would be.

>read diary
The first diary page reads:

In order for the magic to work I am Syrach-bound to write truthfully about my relationship with the subject and how I acquired the object.

I first met Abril Navarro at the Maximas dojo on the evening of the thirteenth of January in 1995. She’d just broken up with a boyfriend who’d then shoved her out of his car in Vermont. She was looking around for new friends and new meaning. David definitely had his eye on Abril that night, but I had a feeling she might turn out to be useful, so I got her out of there before he could talk to her.

(In 1995, the 13th of January was of course a Friday. We’ve heard of David before – maybe he’s the other participant in that ill-fated sex magic we dropped in on? We also heard it implied that something bad had happened to him).

(David later died when I conjured something on him. The summon was just meant to spy on him, but I hear it painted the room with his brains. That’s why the Maximas are after me. It’s also why my relationship with Abril has become so important.)

(Yeah that’d do it)

Me and Abril got to drinking our way around Church Street. She told me she was from Miami originally. Her heavy Roman Catholic upbringing had turned her off the big religions. She loved her mom, so she wore the ring her mom gave her everywhere, but her mom was deep into religion and that was a bad scene for Abril. I suppose that’s how people like Abril end up at a temple for the occult in Burlington.

I told her I was a musician and that I was into the occult. I told her a lot of the Maximas people I’d met were full of shit, but also that I thought the temple was onto something. I didn’t tell her that whenever their somethings came to anything, I liked to know about it. That was the main reason I kept visiting the temple.

That night I took Abril to crash with me at Cragne Manor, just because it wasn’t too far a drive. She thought the house was loco and that I must be a millionaire. I said I grew up there then got out of there, but I still had rooms there I could use. Talk about a long story short.

If particular Cragnes noticed a strange Latina woman walking around the manor grounds, they’d go apeshit, but Abril wears her Florida Marlins baseball cap and big glasses everywhere during the day. I love Abril’s black hair. It almost touches her waist.

>read second page
The second diary page reads:

I saw Abril on and off. I helped her get an apartment. She came to some of my shows and we went out. She liked that if she flirted with guys, they’d always be scared away by me. She didn’t want another boyfriend already. She didn’t want to try my bed, either. I just kept her close. I had perceived something about her, that her auras and her life forces and her cosmic keys were perfectly aligned with mine. I now knew what she would be useful for at the right time.

On the second of November in 1995, I invited Abril to visit me at the remote property of a Maximas temple member in Essex. I’d acquired this property for the purpose. I drugged Abril’s wine, waited for her to fall asleep and then sawed her head off. I played the music to open the way. I performed the incantation. I tasted the blood dripping from her head. I took the ring from her finger.

Abril’s the only one where I wished I didn’t have to kill her. I liked her, but my existence is the important thing.

These pages need to survive for the spell to work. I think I’ll laminate them. Not at Kinko’s, though. Then I’ll hide them.

I’m also bound not to destroy the head. The rest of the body, okay. Tonight I’ll have to risk driving it over to the pit to get it started.

I don’t know who is decapitating people in the northeast.

Francine Devon Cragne
2 November, 1995

…shit. Well, that’s confirmation on the body and the head, and an implication that Francine is doing this black magic not for kicks (or at least not just for kicks), but as a form of self-defense, whether against the Maximas temple folks, those voices on the phone (if they’re different), the beast the sex-magic summoned, or something else entirely?

Plus that mention of how Abril’s aura aligned with Francine’s – is the ritual meant to like throw pursuers off the scent, so they think Francine is the one who’s dead?

There’s a lot to think about here, but the note about how the pages have to be intact to maintain the spell makes me think it might be a good idea to try to mess with them. We take them, but our attempts to rip or break them are fruitless.

Speaking of taking stuff, that diary implies there’s one more thing we might need, and I have a bad suspicion I know where it is…

>take head
(the head of Abril Navarro)
Tensing yourself, you return to the bag and open the mouth a little wider. You were afraid it might smell, but it doesn’t.

Abril’s lush black hair has been crammed carelessly into the bag. Death, freezing, and the isolation of her head in this absurd context destroy all your other attempts at understanding. Interpreting her looks is impossible. Acknowledging her ethnicity or anything else about her is impossible. Perhaps if you took the head out of the bag… No, you could never do that.

As you release the bag, the weight inside it causes it to tilt slightly. Something stuck against the plastic catches the light.

>x something
You reach for the glint in the freezer and pull out a ring.

It’s a thin ring with a heart engraved on it.

Francine emphasized taking the ring – it seems important somehow, even if I’m not sure exactly how.

I try to zoom back to the forest now that I know who the body is, and notice something interesting upon arriving:

* Hang on. Something didn’t come with you from the basement. The diary pages.

You hear Francine’s voice: “Uh-uh. I hid those.”

…can Francine (like modern-Francine) intervene? Is she watching us? That definitely doesn’t sound good.

Well, there’s one thing we can do:

>put ring on corpse
(Abril’s ring on the woman’s corpse)
You ease Abril’s ring onto one of the corpse’s fingers.

I’m not sure whether that means anything, but returning her ring is the least we can do for this poor woman.

There’s one more unexplored area, plus returning to l’oreille, and we should be able to reach it with lfo and + activated:

You’re in a bleak playground in the late afternoon. The last sunlight scrapes at the shadows thrown by a wall of dense, dying trees about twenty feet north of here. Right in front of you is a weather-beaten wooden seesaw, and there’s a bank of swings to the south. A concrete path disappears amongst the trees to the west. You can see a suburban road far away, at the edge of the park, to the east.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

I’d say this place is positively cheerful considering everyplace else we’ve been hanging out, but I’ve learned to bite my tongue.

>x trees
The gray trees grow so densely that you can’t see more than a few feet into them.

>x seesaw
It’s of a kind you almost never see today, just a wooden plank on a hinge with a cold metal T-bar at each end. There are no springs or pads or anything else attached to the structure to cushion anyone or mediate the plank’s motion.

>x swings
The swings hang on metal chains.

It’s all still pretty bleak in objective terms, though – what child would enjoy playing here?

>push seesaw
You give the seesaw a little push. It groans.

It’s of a kind you almost never see today, just a wooden plank on a hinge with a cold metal T-bar at each end. There are no springs or pads or anything else attached to the structure to cushion anyone or mediate the plank’s motion.

Hm, both the hinge and t-bars seem to warrant further examination.

>x hinge
The hinge is rusting but remains functional. You notice a piece of chalk sitting on it.

Ah, I can think of two people – well, two plus ourselves – who would dearly like to get their hands on that chalk!

>x chalk
A piece of plain white chalk.

We take it.

>x t-bar
There’s something poking out of one of the handles.

>x something
You find a note stuck in the end of one of the handles. You pull it out.

>read it
The note says: THE TREES

Either someone’s a big fan of Kate Bush’s seminal 1985 hit Hounds of Love, or we might want to take a second gander at the forest:

>x trees
You look to the trees. A non-descript boy in drab clothing steps out from amongst them. He comes no closer.

The boy’s mouth starts to move, but you don’t hear any sound from it crossing the space between you. You are instead startled by a toneless whispering right in your ear:


Francine, we

Francine, we’re here

We are carrying the circle you asked for from the far place. It will take 5113 days to carry it. On that day you will see mountain-climbers. They keep the circle inside their symbol.

We are carrying the ears you asked for from the far place. It will take 381 days to carry them. Whenever you need them, say your name, then pick up three times. Do it at night.

He continues if we wait:

We come to your window every night

Why don’t you let us in when you speak with us?

We serve you only, no other child

We follow the music

Let us come in your window

It is not safe to talk at the sundown

We’ll come for you in the night



We’ll come for you in the dark

The boy steps back into the trees and is gone.

Folks, I am not ashamed to admit that I played this section alone, late at night, and this is where things went from being evocative and well-written to downright scary. Whatever Francine has been up to, it’s way more oblique and threatening than garden-variety Lovecraftian hijinks – I know creepy children are a played out trope, but this one really comes across odd and off-kilter to me.

We seem to have two sets of instructions, to get …a circle? …and ears?

Ears reminds me that we’ve yet to fully explore the first location we came too – we got there with lfo alone activated:

You are in a small, damp-smelling circular chamber flagged in an iridescent sea green. There’s a hole in the ceiling leading into a sloped shaft, and a drainage grille in the floor. The plinking of distant water echoes up through the grille. Some weak bluish light bounces down into the chamber from the shaft. The light catches scratches on the floor.

You see a child’s kaleidoscope tube set on a metal stand, like a telescope.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

(A weirdly undulating beat plays in the background.)

Here we are again, and this still doesn’t make any more sense.

The room smells like a drain. It’s that mixture of air and water and being underground.

>x hole
You can barely reach the hole, and find you can’t get any kind of grip on it. All you can see when you look up there is that it immediately becomes a diagonally-sloping shaft that leads out of sight.

>x drain
The grille is concreted into the floor. You can’t see what’s beyond it.

>x scratches
Scratched into the floor in tiny letters is:


Well that’s a welcome note of levity ('82 would be about 16 years in the past – I can’t think of anything important happening then, at least that we know about so far).

>x kaleidoscope
The kaleidoscope is made up of three rotating metal cylinders attached end to end. The cylinders are decorated with embossed stars and rainbows. There’s an eyehole at one end of the tube.

>look in it
Peering into the eyehole of the kaleidoscope, you see the expected pretty, glassy patterns in a circular frame - but only for a second. The effect wavers away, leaving you staring through a plain lens at a particular spot on the wall.


(We can’t turn the kaleidoscope and get a different view, I checked).

>x wall
You walk over to the wall and squint at the area singled out by the kaleidoscope. It seems to be as green and featureless as any other part of the wall.

Wait. While turning your head, you heard a sliver of someone’s voice, as if you’d just dialed past a station on your car radio.

Carefully, you move your head around the surface - up, down, back and forth - but, frustratingly, the other noises in the vicinity distract your ears, and you are unable to rediscover the sound.

(to the spot on the wall)

You return to the part of the wall singled out by the kaleidoscope. Carefully, you move your head around the surface - up, down, back and forth - but, frustratingly, the other noises in the vicinity distract your ears, and you are unable to rediscover the sound.

Agh, that’s frustrating.

With all the locations explored, I start going back over the places I’ve been to previously to see if anything’s changed again. When I get back to the living room, this jogs my memory:

It’s night time. All is dark out the western window.

We heard something about night and windows from the creepy kid… what were we supposed to do?

say your name, then pick up three times

“Pick up”? That’s not very specific!

A red telephone is mounted on the wall.

Oh, there we go.

>say francine
You say, “Francine.”

>pick up phone
You pick up the phone. There’s no-one on the line, just a dial tone, so you put it down.

You pick up the phone. There’s no-one on the line, just a dial tone, so you put it down.

You pick up the phone. This time there’s a sound like television static coming down the line. After a few moments the line goes dead and you hear a soft thud nearby. Looking around, you see a small black box at your feet. You have an impression it fell out the bottom of the telephone.

Oh, that’s nice – I like the urban-legend vibe here.

>x black box
The box is rectangular with rounded corners and a lid, though no hinges are visible.

>open it
(first picking up the black box)

Opening the box reveals a pair of green stone earrings.

Whew, the whole “ears” thing made me worried things were going to be more literal – and grisly – than that. I wonder if these will help us zero in on the noise coming from that spot on the wall?

>x earrings
(first taking the earrings out of the box)

You remove the first earring from the box and take a closer look at it. Actually, there are no pins or clips on this ovaloid object. Its curved, organic contours remind you of something else. An ear. Could it be something that goes in the ear canal? An earplug?

Your idea gains credence when you take the second stone out of the box and find it to be a physical mirror image of the first.

The earplugs appear to be made out of jade or some other ornate green mineral, but to the touch they don’t have the coldness of stone you’d expect. One earplug is specifically shaped to fit in the left ear canal, the other the right.

Yeah these seem like magic earplugs.

>wear them
You put the earplugs in your ears. Strangely - very strangely - they have no effect on the quality of your hearing. You expected everything to become muffled, at least as much as if you’d put your fingers in your ears and probably more, but that hasn’t happened.

Can confirm, magic earplugs.



We zoom back to l’oreille:

>listen to spot
You hear a hubbub, like a roomful of people waiting for a meeting to begin. The sound is as real to your ears as if you were actually there. Some banging noises are followed by a gravelly female voice announcing: “Finally, she’s here.” The hubbub dwindles to silence as a set of even, booted footsteps cross a wooden floor. Each step echoes in what must be a large space. You hear the grinding of a chair as the newcomer sits down.

“I think I know why I’m here,” says the voice of Francine Cragne. “Look where I’m sitting.”

Have I mentioned this all feels very Twin Peaks-ish? This feels very Twin Peaks-ish to me – though I haven’t actually seen the show, so that’s less me saying it feels derivative, and more that I’m continuing to enjoy how creepy and alien this all is.

We keep listening:

“Francine,” intones a deep, old male voice, “today we admit you to the station of Xanthic Alderman of the Variegated Court.”

A long pause.

“Xanthic,” says Francine. “That’s yellow, right? Have you ever seen me wear yellow? The color of cowardice and liver disease?”

You put your ear back to the spot. You can tell from the way the sound jumps back in that you missed some of the conversation.

“Girl,” growls the man, “we have just granted you all of the privileges of the Variegated Court.”

“Yeah,” replies Francine. “I’m invoking those privileges to make my first announcement. I quit The Court. I quit the role of Xanthic Alderman.”

There are gasps and cries, and you hear the chair scrape again as Francine stands, presumably.

The man: “Sit down, you promiscuous cunt!”

“Did you charm your wife with that talk, Calvin? No wonder she killed herself, you daughter-fucking piece of shit.”

A strangled cry comes from the man, numerous chairs scrape the floor and everyone starts yelling.

Francine projects her voice over the top of the din: “You can’t move against me while you need me in that chair. So I’m going to leave it empty. And I’m going to kill you by outliving you, Calvin. Because you’re old.”

You hear Francine’s booted feet thump out of the room as the situation disintegrates into a cacophony.

The noise diminishes as people storm out of the meeting. Eventually you hear a door close. Then silence.

You hear the ambience of a large, empty room, as if you were in it yourself.

…Francine is definitely an asshole, but her family sure seems worse – this is grubby, human corruption that’s way more unpleasant than most of what we’ve seen to date.

At least we’ve figured out one more Alderman, or at least ex-Alderman, so yay?

We got distracted by the creepy kid, but the other thing we did at the playground was find the chalk, so let’s get that to our unappealing teenaged lovers.

Everything goes as before, but this time we got this:

“The circle!” she screams. “You broke the circle! Where’s the chalk? Where’s the fucking chalk? Find it, find it, find it or we’re dead!”

>give chalk to francince
Which do you mean, the piece of chalk or the well-dressed ghost (smelling faintly of mildew)?

>piece of chalk
Which do you mean, the piece of chalk or the rusty piece of metal (smelling faintly of mildew)?

>piece of chalk
Which do you mean, the piece of chalk or the rusty piece of metal (smelling faintly of mildew)?

…yeah, and we only have one turn here, so trying to put the bit of metal into the junk pocket runs out the clock and kills us. Death by disambiguation!

We undo and make some preparations, and this time things work (though GIVE CHALK TO FRANCINE doesn’t work since we “can only do that to something animate.” Oof, seems like she really did not enjoy that sex, huh?)

>drop chalk
(the piece of chalk)
You toss the chalk out into the room through the gap between the doors.

“There!” yells the boy. You glimpse Francine’s hand snatching up the chalk, then she bends over to draw something on the floor. The earthquake immediately stops.

“How’d you do that?” shouts the boy. “How the hell’d you do that?”

“Shut up,” says Francine, panting, milling around in front of the closet. She looks flushed and excited. A single drop of sweat falls from her wet brow onto the front of her singlet. You see her face alter subtly into a relaxed mask before she turns back to the boy. “We were never going to die. I just wanted to scare you properly.”

“Well, it worked,” says the boy, sounding exhausted. “I’ve never seen levitation shit like that at the Maximas dojo. Come on, you have to show them you can make this stuff happen.”

“I’m still waiting for them to show me something,” says Francine. You hear the chalk clink to the floor. A door opens and someone walks out.

“Don’t talk 'round me, France. I hate that.” The boy’s voice trails out of the room. The door shuts and a lock rattles. It’s probably safe for you to leave the closet now.

Phew – we’re not being crushed by a foul beast stirring in its godless sleep, and we no longer have to think about grotty teenagers making out.

You get out of the closet.

Francine’s bedroom
You’re in a long, narrow bedroom with a hardwood floor and dingy wallpaper. At the north end of the room is a closed window. A clear day’s blue sky is visible outside. A stack of shelves crammed with books sits to the left of the window. A chair and a piano keyboard on a table are to the right. The recently used bed is in the southeast corner of the room and the closed bedroom door is to the south.

A circle has been drawn on the floor.

You see the mahogany podium with the buttons on it.

You can also see a piece of chalk and a closet here.

The room smells nasty. It could really use an airing.

That last bit seems like another not-so-subtle prompt to something the boy said, but let’s check out the place first:

>x circle
(the circle on the floor)
The circle, drawn in chalk, is at the foot of the bed. You can see a scuffed spot which Francine must have redrawn using the piece of chalk you supplied.

>break circle
(the circle on the floor)
You’re pretty sure you don’t need to do anything more with the circle.

Probably true!

>x keyboard
Sitting on the table by the chair is some sort of electronic musical instrument with a piano keyboard attached to it. The case says ‘Ensoniq MIRAGE DSK’. Its electronic guts are visible. Francine must be tinkering with it.

>play it
You don’t know anything about electronics or this particular keyboard thing. You won’t interfere with it.

>x closet
Looking into the closet from the outside, you can see that it’s empty, but there is a pentagram painted on its rear wall.

>x pentagram
Whenever you’ve seen a pentagram in a movie or come across one in a novel, it’s been to do with the occult or devil worship. This one looks like one of those.

Give Francine credit, for all the weird places she wound up, she started out paying her dues and playing the oldies.

>x shelves
The subjects in young Francine’s library include the occult, the psychology of murder, guitar chords, the criminal history of mankind, service manuals for things that you don’t even know what they are (an Arp-2600?) and science and electronics. There’s also some Shakespeare and some Dragonlance novels.

:shudder: - Dragonlance novels!

(I read a million of those things, albeit at a younger age than Francine, so let me tell you I earned that shudder).

You try to recall what sort of stuff you were reading at this age. You can’t.

Umm, that’s because the only stuff written down when you were 16 was like temple records and the Book of the Dead, Nitocris.

>x bed
It’s tousled, damp and smells. The teens just walked out and left it this way. “Kids these days,” says a voice in your head. Then you smile at your idea, since you aren’t even sure what these days are.

Enough dilly-dallying:

>open it
You slide the window up and are grateful for the fresh breeze that starts to billow into the room. From this vantage point, you find that you have a splendid second floor view of the grounds of Cragne Manor.

In this light, at this time, the place could pass for normal.

As you step back, you are startled by a paper plane. It flies in through the window, brushes past your head and lands on the bedroom floor.

A paper plane??? Oh god, it’s the same one from when she was 10, with the blood and the vomit, isn’t it?

>x plane
(first picking up the paper plane)

The paper from which this plane is made is brown and stained. Is this the same plane you saw the child Francine throw out the window? You never did see what was written on it.

>open it
You carefully unfold the paper plane to reveal a child’s drawing.

>x it
This primitive, colored marker drawing is of a female corpse. The body lies straight out in repose, the eyes are crosses and the tongue lolls over an upside down U of an unhappy mouth. A circle has been drawn around the whole body, and two rings have been drawn with more than stick figure care on the stick figure fingers.

Are these instructions for another ritual? Was putting the ring back on Abril’s finger helping or hurting? Either way, there’s not much to do except try to follow these instructions. …drawing a circle should be easy (we’ll grab the chalk again), but we’ll need a second ring. Could that be the “circle” the boy mentioned “they” were bringing?

It will take 5113 days to carry it. On that day you will see mountain-climbers. They keep the circle inside their symbol.

We haven’t seen any mountains, or mountain climbers, though. Maybe that’ll change if we complete the penultimate step?

Back we go to the forest, then:

>draw circle
You maneuver your way around the corpse, scrawling a series of chalk arcs on the ground until you find yourself back where you started. The woman’s body is now enclosed within a circle.

Okay, so we just need to find a mountain, some mountain climbers, and/or a symbol of same (like an ice-axe, maybe that’d be). How hard can that be?

…some hundred-odd turns later, it’s feeling very hard indeed. I try to figure out when the circle should be arriving, based on what I can piece together from the timeline – it should be 14 or so years from the playground conversation, and about 13 years from when we get the earrings in the night-time living-room – but I can’t figure out enough information to know for certain.

After yet more banging my head against the wall, I engage in some metagame thinking and realize that so far, there hasn’t been anything important happening at or obtained from the club, so that seems like the likeliest option. But every time I go there, beyond some uninteresting scenery all I see is the two wanted posters and the photo, none of which have anything to do with mountains or mountain climbers.

Any of y’all figured out what I missed? It’s way way back near the top of the update:

>take gig

I’ve been hoofing that around this whole time, but not thinking about it since it’s lost in the flood of my overwhelming inventory. But remember how there was one band in particular whose name I commented on?

Bread Loaf Mountaineers

… I am super good at IF, y’all.

>x mountaineers
You scrutinize the Bread Loaf Mountaineers logo on the gig poster. The letter O in “Loaf” flickers once, almost imperceptibly, and you feel something touch the inside of your right hand. You open that hand to discover a ring.

And it’s just that simple.

>x ring
(the far place ring)
A simple ring with a coppery hue.

It’s past time for us to be done with this. Back to the forest:

>put ring on corpse
(the far place ring on the woman’s corpse)
You slip the far place ring onto one of the corpse’s fingers.

The wind begins to rise. The trees whip about even more violently. Clouds slide over the moon, plunging the clearing into a gritty darkness. The ground stirs. You find yourself instinctively stepping away from the corpse.

Two points of light appear in the dark: the two rings on the corpse’s fingers. They glow for a moment and then wink out.

Now the clearing fills with a new, cold and sourceless light, rendering it a frozen landscape. The background music devolves into a quiet roar. There’s no detail or tone in the sound. It’s just a presence.

You are shocked by a blast of heat about your person, and find yourself hurling Francine’s drawing of the corpse to the ground, where it bursts into a fireball. Then it’s not there anymore.

A woman stands up at the edge of the clearing. She leans one hand on a tree, the hand with two rings on it. Dressed all in black, her red hair licked by the wind, she looks somehow magnificent in the frozen light. You glance down to Francine, destroyed and headless on the ground, then back to magnificent Francine leaning on the tree. She looks into your eyes and her wide mouth shows the slightest smile. Then she turns and hurries away into the forest. You are alone with the corpse again.

The strange light fades. The clouds part for the moon. The natural state of things returns.

(press SPACE to continue)

The background starts to fade away. You find yourself back in

The Music Room (Wade Clarke)

Wow. Yeah, it’s some kind of impersonation ritual. Before we can do anything:

Francine’s voice says, “Thank you, Naomi.” She draws out the syllables of your name in a mocking fashion. “You’ve been helpful. I wonder if you get how helpful. I knew the right person would visit the music room eventually.”

So those weren’t just flashbacks? Somehow it seems like the ritual must have been held in abeyance, waiting for us to arrive and complete it. I think we’ve somehow freed Francine (when we first met her, she said she was going to “to future”) – which seems like a very dangerous thing to have done.

The voice sighs, like she’s stretching. You feel you can almost see her before you. Your mind suddenly recalls the madness in the eyes of that little red-haired girl calling out to invisible things in the dark of her bedroom. How did she, and you, arrive at this point together? You try to think only of finding Peter again. That goal is an anchor of sanity.

"What am I going to do for you? Well, I pity anyone who has to play stupid games with my family here in the manor. So I’ll help you cheat. But I can’t just say certain Cragne secrets out loud. That would break the protection on this room.

“You already overheard one thing you need to know when you were listening in l’oreille. And about the other thing. Did you know that I have a familiar? The animal was seen at my grave.” Then she adds, “My first grave.”

A paper plane suddenly flies through the doorway into the music room. It lands at your feet with a thud.

Well, at least she’s grateful. But what does she mean about “the other thing” – we learned which aldermanic seat she held, what more could there be?

>x plane
(first picking up the paper plane)

This paper plane is a little heavier than the last one you held.

open it
You unfold the paper plane. It’s a police report.

>read report
The report is three and a half pages long. It reads:

Commander’s interim report to the Public Safety Commissioner on the investigation into the murder of Francine Cragne

Keith Browne, Jr.

January 18, 1999

The bulk of this report comprises a summary of the five month investigation into the murder of twenty-seven-year-old Francine Cragne in the town of Waterville, Lamoille County, Vermont in late 1998. The report concludes with a description of the investigation’s recently broadened scope. The FBI are assisting Vermont State Police with the investigation as of the date of this report.

In the early morning of August 5, 1998, two Vermont fishermen called police after finding the body of a woman in forestland in Waterville. They had been walking along a nature trail when a bird flew across their path and startled them. (They say the bird turned out to be a peregrine.) Searching for the bird, they found it in a tree overlooking a clearing. A woman was lying on her back in the clearing. The location was approximately 300 feet northwest of the Montgomery Covered Bridge. The woman’s clothes had been lifted to reveal her stomach. The words “FUCK YOU” were written on her stomach in blood. The fishermen said they could not see the woman’s head.

First responding troopers located four shotgun shells near the corpse. From the amount of blood present and its concentration around the neck of the corpse, our initial take on the crime scene was that the woman was killed where she lay by several shotgun blasts to the head. Based on its condition, we estimated the body had only been in situ for ten hours at the most. We believed there was probably more than one perpetrator involved because the woman was not bound, and had not been bound. Only an exceptionally powerful individual would be able to subdue and control an uncooperative victim while manipulating a shotgun all by themselves. That scenario seemed far-fetched for the crime scene.

(press SPACE to continue)

The partial disrobement, profanity written in blood and some spreading of the woman’s legs suggested a sexual motive. However, we discovered that all of the woman’s undergarments were intact. We saw no outward signs of sexual violence, and the complete absence of sexual violence was later confirmed by forensics. They put time of death somewhere between 10 PM the previous night and 1 AM. The woman had bruises all over her body and had obviously resisted her attackers before she was killed. Forensics also verified that the blood used to write the message was the victim’s.

We quickly came to regard the profanity and disrobement as poor false staging of the crime scene - unconvincing attempts by the killers to lead us into thinking the motive for the crime was sexual or sadistic in nature. The overkill used on the victim suggested the killers were inexperienced, and simply wanted to be sure the victim was dead. While destruction of the head can imply a personal motivation, it can also be carried out in order to make identification of the victim more difficult. In this case, fingerprinting the corpse led to a quick identification, and in retrospect we believe that the killers must have known the victim would be readily identified.

As you now know, the murdered woman was twenty-seven-year-old Francine Cragne. She was a Vermont native with a criminal record, major involvement in underground occult culture and a colorful history.

Miss Cragne was a member of the wealthy Cragne family of Backwater. Cragnes have been in trouble with the law ever since law existed in this state. Members of the family have been implicated in a dozen murders and disappearances during this century alone (see supplementary report A) and the Cragnes continue to be regarded as outsiders by the Backwater community. Various Cragne family members have been placed under surveillance by Vermont State Police over time in relation to criminal activity in Vermont’s occult communities. In spite of decades of thorough police work, no Cragne has ever been charged with more than a misdemeanor. As a result of this historical anomaly, I believe a cultural problem has developed within Vermont law enforcement such that the lower ranks consider it a waste of time to work crimes involving the Cragne family.

(press SPACE to continue)

I have to admit we now find ourselves caught short in the case of the deceased Miss Cragne. She was never in the frame for any serious crimes while she was alive. She even had a moderate public profile in Vermont and surrounding states as a musician, in which capacity she several times caused a public nuisance that drew police involvement. Our involvement never turned up anything on her beyond what she was being charged with at the time. However, once we began questioning the Cragne family and members of the Maximas occult temple in Burlington (that Miss Cragne was known to frequent) about Miss Cragne’s murder, we acquired information that prompted us to recalibrate the investigation on several fronts. It turns out that Francine Cragne had multiple enemies both inside and outside these occult communities. Many of her reputed enemies have gone missing indefinitely, though most of them were never reported missing. We attribute the lack of missing person reports to a couple of factors. First, there is the closed nature of these occult communities, something we’re just now starting to learn more about. Second, we’ve found a commonality amongst the missing individuals’ backgrounds in that most of them have severed ties with their families.

Regarding Miss Cragne’s murder, we’ve been working our long list of suspects and we currently have seven members of the Maximas temple under surveillance. (See supplementary Maximas Surveillance Report for details of our progress.)

Regarding Miss Cragne’s activities while she was alive, we now have reason to believe she may have been involved in some or all of the following unexplained disappearances and deaths:

David Corey - Missing (Vermont)
Brace Cragne - Missing (Vermont)
Arthur Griswold - Deceased (Maine)
Olive Hobart - Missing (New Hampshire)
Victor Kesick - Missing (Ohio)
Abril Navarro - Missing (Vermont)
Ida Rodriguez - Deceased (Pennsylvania)

(press SPACE to continue)

Considering the amount of police work that lies ahead, as well as inevitable heartbreak for an expanding circle of families of the dead and missing, and the expected revelation of further related crimes and perpetrators, it is only a cold comfort that Francine Cragne is verifiably deceased. We won’t have to pursue her, but whatever she could have told us about all this in person is gone.

We are now pooling our investigative resources with the FBI.

Commander Keith Browne, Jr.
Vermont State Police

Again, this is a lot, though confirms a lot of what we’d guessed – the ritual did seem to make Abril’s corpse remember Francine’s, presumably meaning the forces after her will give up the pursuit. Beyond that, the Cragnes do have the local cops in their pockets, though the State Police are circling. This report is from January 1999, but we’re pretty sure it’s 1998 still; so we have unleashed Francine on the future. And if her “first grave” is where Abril was found, is the familiar a peregrine falcon? That might be the other thing, but it’s unclear why that would be knowledge worth having.

The coffee confirms we’re done, but we still have some questions and what she’s experienced here will linger with Nitocris for a while. This has been another stand-out room – as stuffed with content and thematically consistent as the meatpacking plant bathroom, though where that was gonzo and over the top, this was restrained and unsettling. My hat’s off to @severedhand – I’d already supported his kickstarter, but on the strength of the Music Room I went back and upped my pledge, and I’d encourage y’all to do the same.

…we’re not quite done yet with this update, though the other rooms to come are a bit shorter.

(to be continued later tonight)


Phew! That’s a lot to read through, and fun. I think I can remember about 4-5 really big rooms, and this and the near packing plant were two of them. It seems like you liked these, and at least two of the ones to come are incredibly polished and lovely. Very fun!


(Chapter the Twelfth, concluded)

There’s one more unexplored direction on the first floor of Cragne Manor – going west from the foyer. Walking off what we’ve just experienced, we head back to the entrance and do so:


Court (Ryan Veeder)
Walls paneled with elaborate boiseries curl slowly around this ovular hall. The western vertex of the ellipse is dominated by an enormous window; at the opposite end, a low archway leads east to the foyer. A glass display case is set into the north wall.

In the center of the room, an irregular circle of twelve pedestals surrounds a black monolith.

A white key lies on the floor.

Oh geez, after Wade’s epic, this update also has the Ryan Veeder room? I assume he needs no introduction – besides being an incredibly prolific and prominent author, responsible for the literary A Rope of Chalk from the 2020 Comp and the Castle Balderstone horror anthologies among many, many others, he’s of course also the co-organizer of the game we’ve been working through together for nigh on two months now. I suppose I could have tagged him in at any point, but I’ll do so now in case he wants to drop by: @Afterward

Given his role in the project and what we’re seeing here, I have a suspicion which I want to check the coffee to confirm:

>x coffee
The contents of your coffee cup startle you so much that you almost drop it. Instead of organic liquid curves and swirls, the cream forms a weblike pattern of jagged geometric lines that radiate out from the center at irregular intervals like bolts of lightning.

According to the book you read, images like this occur when your fate depends on so many separate actions and courses of destiny that it can no longer be adequately divined by a leftover cup of now-cold muck water.

This seems like it’s going to be the endgame room, right? With that monolith and the pedestals and everything?

First things first:

>x me
This room makes you feel very small.

Fair. Then some scenery:

>x boiseries
The panels are of dark wood, swirling patterns in the grain suggesting eyes, mouths, and tongues.

Figured it’d be something like that (“bois” is French for wood).

>x window
The sky outside is dark, and all you can discern in the window is a formless web of lead tracery.

Speaking of the window, there are some evocative timed events firing in the background:

Rain rattles impatiently against the stained glass.

A flash of lightning illuminates the stained glass: You catch a glimpse of a figure wearing a dark cloak.

Thunder rolls overhead, increasing in intensity, going on so long and becoming so loud that it must be a jet engine?it stops.

Another flash of lightning: In the stained glass, above the dark figure, a jagged shape looms.

Outside, the wind whistles along the manor walls.

For a second you hear nothing?then the rain starts again.

An explosion of thunder rattles the house.

The stained glass lights up again, and you see the figure raising something to its lips.

Several loud peals of thunder ring out almost rhythmically, as if something were knocking on a gargantuan door.

Interesting stuff, though the events seem to repeat randomly and don’t build to a specific endpoint; I also can’t look for the figures, sensibly enough since they’re only visible during the lightning strikes.

There’s one thing here whose purpose I haven’t started to work out:

>x case
The case is built into the curved wall, so its glass door has been crafted with a subtle but noticeable curve of its own.

The case contains seventeen figurines: a silverfish, a mole, a Venus flytrap, a duck, a crow, a Pontiac Firebird, a white antelope, a kraken, a rat, a wolverine, a cat, a tarantula, a peregrine falcon, a greyhound, a weasel, a sheep and an eel.

Oh. OH.

We don’t need the names of which Cragne is in which seat. We need an animal. That’s what Francine was trying to tell us.

Some of these we’ll be able to map via color – like the kraken was described as eburnean, same as the alderman, for example. And we got that Francine – once the Xanthic seat – had a peregrine familiar. And we read the journal of – some dude, the one we found in the tiny office above the sewers – which had a wolverine on the cover. Yeah, I see how it all is going to fit, so long as I can confirm two things:

>x wolverine figurine
The form of a wolverine is unmistakable, but far from photorealistic; it’s easy to make out stray chisel marks and brush strokes. The figurine is mounted on a circular base.

>x figurine of a kraken
The form of a kraken is unmistakable, but far from photorealistic; it’s easy to make out stray chisel marks and brush strokes. The figurine is mounted on a circular base.

Yup, interchangeable bases. Last thing:

>x pedestals
Each pedestal is a different color (although several are barely-distinguishable shades of yellow): croceate, cesious, puce, mazarine, griseous, fulvous, xanthic, eburnean, fuscous, niveous, rufous and icterine.

So what we’ve got here is your standard statue-pedestal sorting puzzle (this gives us the names of the remaining Alderfolk to boot). Let’s see, I think we’ve seen cesious, puce, mazarine, fulvous, xanthic, eburnean, niveous, and rufous, right? That’s 8 out of 12, pretty good!

>x niveous
A hunk of whitish marble has been carved to resemble a robe draped messily over an unseen pedestal, the stonework mimicking the folds of real cloth with uncanny verisimilitude.

No detail beyond the color, as we discussed way upthread.

Let’s confirm this works the way we think:

>open case
You open the display case.

>put falcon on xanthic
(First taking the figurine of a peregrine falcon)

You place the figurine of a peregrine falcon on the xanthic pedestal.


…you know, this would be a hard puzzle requiring going back over the long long list of documents to remember the details associated with each Cragne, but fortunately, I have this thread as a record, so it should be simple to CTRL-F my way through matching color to animal. Instead of doing that bit by bit, though, I’ll wait to do them all at once I’ve collected all 12, since I think that’ll be a fun way to recap the thread as we get to the end.

My last assumption is that once things are set with the pedestals, something funky will happen with the monolith:

>x monolith
It’s a prism-like column of some black material, its angles forming an asymmetrical pyramid at the top.

Yeah, that’s a creepy gate-y thing.

>eat it
That’s plainly inedible.

Look you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, OK?

One more thing here:

>x white key
A finger-length key, its off-white striations indicating it was carved from ivory, or bone.

Maybe an indication this goes to the family crypt? At this point we’ve completed the first floor, but rather than backtrack I think let’s press on, and see if we can’t sneak in a peek at the second floor. We pop over to the landing, and:


Top of Stairs (Q. Pheevr)
You are at the top of a staircase, which leads down to Landing at the Bottom of Stairs (Mark Sample). An archway leads east.

On the north wall is a round white wall clock.

For some reason, there is a dilapidated kitchen sink standing against the west wall.

A little simpler than we’ve been used to getting these last few rooms, that’s a nice change of –

Somehow I have just breezed past “Q. Pheevr”, who could really stand to buy a vowel. They have an IFDB profile: “Longtime player/reader of IF. Occasional beta-tester. Contributor to Cragne Manor.” I appreciate that kind of to-the-point communication, makes my job much easier!

One thing to note is that the stairs run out here, so I guess that means there’s only the two main floors? Plus the basement door we’ve already seen in the kitchen, and I’m assuming there’s an attic, but actually this manor is less gargantuan than I would have thought.


>x me
You’re still Naomi. At least for now.

Heh, indeed.

Folks. FOLKS. It’s a red-letter day – I’ve gotten through an update remembering to X ME in every room as I’ve visited it. I can almost certainly promise that this high-water-mark of competence will not be matched in any future chapter, but for now let me enjoy the air here on the mountaintop.

>x clock
A round white wall clock with black Arabic numbers. It currently shows the time as 9:24.

Time passes.

>x clock
A round white wall clock with black Arabic numbers. It currently shows the time as 9:22.

Sure, given the way the sun goes up and down and all around here, that seems right.

>set clock to midnight
You set the round white wall clock to 12:00.

Oooh, the very witching hour of the night – now might I drink hot blood.

Or maybe just noon, in which case I’d want the blood cool, what with global warming it’s way too sweltering for hot blood in the middle of the day.

>x staircase
From the top, the stairway looks gloomy and perilously steep. At the bottom you can see a glimpse of Landing at the Bottom of Stairs (Mark Sample).

Oh, a nice bit of coding defeated by the out-of-character naming convention imposed on rooms!

>x ceiling
The ceiling here is vaulted, matching the curve of the eastern archway.

>x floor
Bare wooden floorboards. None of them seem to be loose.

>x archway
The archway to the east looks? hungry?

That’s a little foreboding, but it’s a problem for Chapter the Thirteenth.

>x sink
It’s not obvious whether the sink is plumbed in or just sitting here. The faucet is rusty and the basin is stained. Below the sink is a pine cabinet, which is closed.

Ugh, not more plumbing.

>x faucet
The faucet is rusty, but it can still be turned on or off. Right now it seems to be turned off.

>x basin
The basin bears stains that might be rust, or coffee, or blood.

>taste stains
The basin doesn’t taste like much. Those stains look pretty old.

Nice job anticipating my objectively unreasonable desire to lick everything in sight!

>turn on faucet
You open the tap. There is a faint clunking noise, but no water comes out.

Ugh. Look, as long as no horse comes out I’ll be happy.

>x faucet
The faucet is rusty, but it can still be turned on or off. Right now it looks as if it’s turned on, but there’s no water coming out.

You seem to hear a faint voice coming from the plumbing, saying:

As day follows day, I shall tread the earth and make music. But when the sun hath set and risen once more, then shall I cease to do these things. And I will commence.

…well, it’s definitely not a horse so I’m not complaining!

You hear nothing unexpected.

We expected to hear that?

This goes on as we do other things – I’ll transcribe it all here:

Wherefore am I denied the pleasure of lips upon lips? Truly I can withstand much deprivation, but I gaze upon thy lower garment and long for the touch of thy lips.

Wherefore can I not lie with thee? Know that I am skilled in the art of love, but an unknown force prevents me.

Uh-huh, heard that one before.

Wherefore am I denied the pleasure of carnal knowledge? I curse my ill fortune, for I have lived my entire life in hope of a single-!

As day follows day, I become wrathful. And verily I say unto thee that I foresee a day when I shall take my leave of thee, and bid thee good night.

So it’s a faucet-incel. Huh. Don’t run into those too often.

O my mother! Hast thou attended to the doings of thy son? I know that thou art afflicted with many troubles, and many besides thee are so afflicted.

Please leave your mom out of this.

When thy beloved turned from thee, then wast thou a fugitive.

O my mother! Look thou now at what thy son hath wrought. He goeth about the city as though he were first among men; he hath gone into the city and bought him a mighty weapon.

You know I was half-joking about the incel thing, but disturbingly, that’s where things are trending.

Oh, hurl not thy stones in my direction! Forbear! Know thou that I feel for thee, but harm me not with thy weapon!

A ghastly spectral cuckoo flies out of the round white wall clock and squawks, “The time is now eleven o’clock!” before vanishing into thin air.

Wait, that last part didn’t come from the sink!

The hearth is fallen to ruin, alas! I beg thee, admit me into thy most secret doings.

Let us inhale together the smoke of the fire, and be merry; let us seek comfort each in the limbs of the other.

I take these words into my heart and am amazed; I speak these words with my mouth to no avail. Between thy legs I am silent.

O my mother! O my lover, would that I could love thee. The city sleepeth not; it shall spring like a panther here in thy chamber, measure upon measure.

This is just getting creepier and creepier!

Now I say to thee that thou must choose: some things must thou renounce, and to some things must thou hold fast.

And as he stood ready to divide the things from the things, then spake she, saying, “Beloved, hold! I will tell the sums.” And she told the sums.

At this point it seems to loop. These seem like they must be translations of something else into Biblical language – pop song lyrics, maybe? – but I’m not spotting the references. Anyone out in the commentariat having better luck?

Nitocris has better things to do than listen to hard-up faucet-dwellers witter on, though, and in the interim she’s been investigating that cabinet:

>x cabinet
The cabinet is made of pine. It is marred by several scratches near the bottom.

>open it
You open the cabinet under the sink, revealing a pink-bound book.

>x scratches
The scratches look as if they were made by something small but fierce, like a raccoon.

>x pink
A quarto-size volume bound in remarkably ugly pink leather, with a label on the spine. The book bears the title Venator in Tenebris, but no author’s name is given. The front endpaper is embossed with the insignia of the Backwater Public Library. On the title page, there is a footnote in which the anonymous author appears to be pleading for forgiveness from a hooligan and some kind of metal cup-holder.

Hey, it’s a library book! And no hoops needed to jump through to get it, so that’s nice.

Venator in Tenebris is an easy one – venator is hunter, tenebris is shadow, so that’s hunter, in shadow… or, hey, if we’re a bit looser on the translation, Hunter, in Darkness. Fun little in-joke.

>read it
(first taking the pink-bound book)

The pink-bound book gives off a sinister energy (and a highly unpleasant smell).
Are you sure you want to read it?

Oh, honey.

Please answer yes or no.> yes

You begin to read. You find yourself immersed in the legend of a creature living in –

Please press SPACE to continue.

Limestone Caverns (inside the pink-bound book)
These caves are your home. You know every stalagmite, stalactite, pit, and bat’s nest.

From this part of the cavern you can go southeast, southwest and down.

A lone bat flies into the cave.

Oh, lordy. We’re not getting out of this so easily, huh? Looks like we’re in a wumpus-eye recreation of Hunt the Wumpus, so I’m assuming we’ll need to escape, or kill the hunter, which I believe involves mapping a hard-to-visualize dodecahedron (I’ve never played either the original or Zarf’s reimagining, but I did play Robin Johnson’s Gruesome from last year so that’s how I know how this goes).

>x bat
Small. Furry. Airborne. Restless. Tasty.

You have no use for tools, clothes, or weapons. You are utterly sufficient unto yourself.

>x me
You are burly but nimble. Your matted fur is glorious. Your teeth and claws are formidable. Your suckers kiss and caress the surfaces of the cavern.

Hey, that makes it sound like we’re pretty at home here – maybe this won’t be a thankless exercise in mapping, that hunter’s never gonna know what hit him. Let’s get going – southeast seems as good a place to start as any:


Limestone Caverns (inside the pink-bound book)
These caves are your home. You know every stalagmite, stalactite, pit, and bat’s nest.

From this part of the cavern you can go northwest, southwest and down.

From the cave to the southwest, a long, thin shape comes flying through the air, following a strange arcing path through the convoluted passages of the cavern.

It strikes your fur and somehow it keeps going, into your flesh. Nothing could be that sharp, could it? Not even your own claws. But it pierces your hide and goes deep into your body.

You howl. You can feel something evil in the shape working its way into your blood. You try to pull the thing out of your flesh but you can no longer feel where it is. Everything hurts. Your vision goes dark.

Please press SPACE to continue.

Son of a!

No! This cannot be how the story ends.

You stop reading and fling the pink-bound book away!

And we’re back in the Manor. Though we haven’t been able to get the book, this still counts as reading it:

As you finish reading the passage, you realize that the well-dressed man has been reading over your shoulder. He nods thoughtfully, placing his hand on the cover, leaving frost behind on the library insignia.

That’s two since the spark last changed form, but this time there’s no further upgrade to his appearance or sapience – so much for that theory.

Well, once more unto the breach. Nitocris tries to take the book again, gets sent to the same opening screen (no bat this time, though) and out of sheer bloody-mindedness, goes southeast again:

Limestone Caverns (inside the pink-bound book)
These caves are your home. You know every stalagmite, stalactite, pit, and bat’s nest.

From this part of the cavern you can go northwest, southwest and down.

From a nearby cave you smell something living. Its scent is strange and hostile, but intermingled with something familiar. It smells almost like one of your own kind, but it can’t be, can it? It has been so long.

We found the hunter again already? I think we have a fifty-fifty shot…

As you enter the cave below, the smell intensifies. Before you stands a strange creature. It is smaller than yourself, but larger than most other animals you have seen. It carries strange implements made of wood. And its body-

-part of its body is covered in furry hide very much like your own, but the hide hangs loosely on it, and underneath it the creature’s skin-its own skin-is nearly hairless.

Your claws find their way under the stolen hide, and your teeth find the creature’s throat, and you tear and you rend and you bite until at last the creature is lying on the floor of the cave, limp and still.

After a moment, you carefully, gently peel the hide from the creature’s lifeless form and hold it to your face. Your howl reverberates through the caves.

And then you put down the hide and begin to eat.

Yay, a happy ending!

We’re booted back out, and now we’ve successfully taken the book (trying to read it again just says “you have already finished reading the pink-bound book”) – coffee confirms we are all done here. Whew!

Quite a big update – and we’ve got the whole second floor in front of us.


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

(Like everything’s smelling of mildew, it’s a problem)


Cragne Manor Ground Floor:

Cragne Manor Second Floor:


Transcript (it’s a doozy, I wasn’t lying about all the time I spent messing around in the Music Room):
Cragne session 12.txt (365.6 KB)

cragne session 12 save.txt (67.1 KB)

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

Yeah, I definitely enjoyed them both, despite their very different vibes! That’s part of the joy of the exquisite-corpse approach, I suppose – if you tried to draw these rooms out to the length of a full game, I could see them not working as well, and if Cragne Manor were 84 straight hour-long marathons, it would get exhausting. But running through a bunch of simpler rooms then coming across a set-piece like this is super fun, and having different themes, prose styles, and gameplay approaches keeps things fresh.

Nice to know there are a couple more like this to look forward to! It’s funny, I was counting rooms and I think I might be a little over halfway done – it feels like I’ve done so much, but there must still be so much farther to go.


From my experience I think you’re halfway through, and I actually thought after you made it into the manor, so I definitely think you’re on the home stretch.

For the lyrics, I didn’t see them when I played, but I thought they were a translation, too, and one part looked like it would rhyme (if mighty weapon is a ‘gun’, then it would rhyme with ‘what your son has done’, so I looked it up and it might be Add It Up by the Violent Femmes?


Oh wow, I checked and that has to be it - nice bit of Google-fu there! With all the “o mother” stuff I was half wondering whether it was Bohemian Rhapsody but of course that doesn’t actually fit.


Thanks a lot Mike. I’m really glad for your playthrough because of how deep in the game the room is. Since The Music Room is like a whole game in my output, I eventually experienced some frustration that relatively few might see it. This thread has helped me in that respect, and probably other authors too.

I’m also glad the room’s vibe managed to shape how you wrote about it in this thread. I was a little worried in advance that the part-flip tone of the thread might not be a great match for this room.

Since a few rooms before this is as far as I’ve got in Cragne, I’m especially looking forward to all the upcoming exploration.




Okay, the Music Room has now definitely taken the title of my favorite room in the game. That was excellent.

So there are eight “rooms” here, each a different moment in the life of Francine Cragne. But at least one of them was actually two different moments: experimenting with blood magic as a child, and experimenting with sex magic as a teenager?

As an (abused?) child, she did some blood magic that involved sending a message to the future, but also caused some manner of strange beaſt to pursue her. As a teenager, the beaſt almost caught her, but Naomi’s Nitocris’s intervention with the chalk saved her. During this time she was also keeping an eye on the Maximas, watching for any of their magic to actually bear fruit.

In her early 20s she became a moderately popular musician, and got a reputation (and criminal record) for doing things like flinging blood on her audience. Somewhere in here she ramped up her magic; she sent something after David (the kid she was doing sex magic with?) which accidentally killed him, and may have been involved in several other deaths and disappearances, according to the police report—or possibly it was the beaſt. The Cragnes added her to the Variegated Court, but she quit in dramatic fashion, and also burned bridges with the Maximas when they found out what she was doing.

Eventually, she tried to escape from the beaſt, sacrificing her friend Abril out in the woods to use her body as a decoy. But she couldn’t finish the ritual herself, since that would leave a trail pointing to her. So she went into hiding, using her music to point someone else to what needed to be done. Nitocris completed the ritual (including getting some supplies from a strange child at a playground—that’s the only moment that doesn’t seem to be one of Francine’s memories, and takes place in a suburb which means it can’t be anywhere near Backwater), turning Abril’s body into Francine’s; Francine has now come out of hiding, to continue her reign of terror. Or maybe just her career as a musician. Maybe now that she’s free of the beaſt she’s going back to her true calling, throwing vials of her own blood off the stage.

Do I have that right? I keep trying to find a pattern in the buttons—maybe minus is 1, plus is 2, LFO is 4? Bedroom - living room - club - orielle - basement - playground - forest? That seems like it would mostly line up, except that the playground seems like it comes chronologically before the club and the living room, for the child’s numbers to make sense.

Also, I definitely thought Francine’s “immortality” was going to be the Charles Dexter Ward variety, not just faking her death to get away from a beaſt. Overall what’s going on in this room feels a lot more grounded—not in a bad way!—than the usual Lovecraftian style of horror we’ve got here.


Oh, and Wade, I would love to see the source for this room or some author commentary on it if you’re interested in sharing. I never reached it myself in play but it was definitely a great read.

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Yeah, this timeline generally seems right to me, with three caveats: first, I agree that the playground has to come earlier in the sequence due to the child’s dates for bringing the material. Second, an additional wrinkle on the timeline is that in addition to the bedroom, there are also two living rooms. When first visited, there’s afternoon light and the phone is ringing with the threatening message, which given that they say to meet them at the club, seems like it must happen when Francine’s in her 20s. Then after that, it turns to night, but since this is where/when you get the ears, if the boy is telling the truth that means it must be well back in the timeline, about 14 years previous if we assume the club-corridor scene were we get the ring isn’t too far off from when the threatening call came.

Then the last potential bit of weirdness is that the timeline of Abril’s murder is very strange. The diary page describing Francine as having committed the crime in November of 1995, but according to the police report, it wasn’t discovered until August 1998. It seems very unlikely that in the woods in northern Vermont, a body would have survived intact for two and a half years, down to the message written in blood not being erased by repeated snows.

This is hard to explain, but we are pretty sure that Nitocris’s adventure is happening sometime in mid 1998 (modulo that calendar in the dining room, but time was wonky there anyway). So the murder – and Francine – might have been somehow held in abeyance until Nitocris showed up and completed the ritual, dumping Francine and Abril’s body back into the timeline? Of course, Francine was sufficiently active post-murder to set up the basement scene, but that one could be a metaphor of some kind, or an extradimensional space, or otherwise not real (the ominous galumphing about from upstairs maybe indicates there’s something going on with the subconscious?)

The other thing I didn’t lean too hard into in my writeup, but which I’m increasingly convinced of, is that Francine wasn’t running from the Maximas rubes or the vague threatening voices or the beast or anything else – because as far as we can tell she put this ritual in motion when she was ten. So what she was trying to lose her identity to escape was almost certainly her family, and the thankfully-only-vaguely-indicated abuse she was suffering. Even by the dark standards of this room, though, that’s pretty dark, so I downplayed that interpretation in my writeup.

(It’s of course possible that the timey-wimey nature of the ritual means that Francine could have launched it as an adult, and then it rewrote her childhood to create the necessary preconditions. But that seems like a bridge too far to me).


Thanks Wade, I’m glad you liked the writeup! This LP format seems to promote a fairly jokey attitude, but I definitely was feeling the impact of this intense scenario you created so I’m glad that came through. I’ll echo Daniel and say this was my favorite room I’ve seen so far – it’s a real tour de force with a distinct vibe. I kept referring to it as Lynchian, but not because it felt derivative but because the most intense bits gave me the same unsettled feeling as I get from his stuff, while still being sufficiently tied to the more conventional Lovecraftiana of the main game so it doesn’t feel like too far of a departure.

It is a shame that its position this deep in the game means comparatively fewer folks have been able to experience it for themselves. Hopefully the thread gets it a little more attention, but if other readers are wanting to play through it but find the idea of getting through the opening part of the game intimidating, they can just download the save I posted at the end of Chapter 11 and walk over a couple rooms to kick off the sequence. There’s definitely more to dig into here than I included in the writeup!


Huh. I hadn’t thought of that interpretation—that she was faking her death to escape her family—but that would explain why she needed Nitocris, rather than a Cragne-by-blood, to complete the ritual. She didn’t want any of her relatives knowing her secret, that it was Abril’s body instead of her own.

That is also very odd about the dates. In that case, perhaps 1995 is when she killed Abril and disappeared from the world. The basement is her “hideaway” where nobody can find her, a bit like Konstantin’s extra-dimensional bathroom, and from there she can only interact with the world through her music (which includes her voice to give Nitocris the instructions). When the ritual was completed she stepped back into the world, which we saw in the forest, and the scene was set for the police to find the body and report her death.

The orielle might be connected to that same space—a place for her to listen and spy on the Cragnes without being detected—or it might just literally be a secret passage behind the walls in the Manor. Certainly wouldn’t be the strangest thing about the architecture there.

Two further thoughts: can you keep exploring through her music once she’s returned? And I wonder how accurate of a timeline we can get for all of this; we know her age at the time of the police report, a vague age at the times of some other scenes, the date of the murder, and the relative timing of the playground, the second living room, the first living room, and the club. I might try to put that together once I’m off the road.


I just checked and I can keep playing the music and moving through the different areas – and if I go back to Forestland, the chalk circle is there but it’s empty:

> x circle
The corpse has gone but the circle remains.

I didn’t do an exhaustive check, though – maybe there are other changes?


I was attempting to do just that, and managed to make Gargoyle segfault. That was unexpected. Just to check—have other people been able to restore the saves posted here (i.e. they haven’t been corrupted somehow by Discourse)? And if so, in which interpreter?


it would be very impolitic of me to have favorites but I gotta say there are some epic rooms that really blew me away & Wade’s music room is up there, not to take anything away from the smaller rooms that are also wonderful