Last time on Call of Cthulhu (back in June) our solo protagonist, the young Detective DJ Stark failed to stop whatever unholy occult occurrence at Horton Opera House. Stabbed by cultists, blind luck caused a passerby to notice him and call for an ambulance.
The incident cost Stark another two weeks in the hospital, but he insisted on returning to duty quickly. Mr. Chao had all but disappeared, and there was no sign of the cultists in the opera house. There was no clue as to what the swirling bright light that he saw before he fell down the trapdoor.
At the end of his shift he was approached by his new partner Detective Alex Sim, a young Asian woman who knew of Stark’s proclivities with investigating strange and unexplained things and getting into severe injuries. She warned him that she did not wish for her career to be jeopardised by such happenings. She said, “If anything happens that is even a tiny bit strange, I will report you and drop you like a bad habit fast.”
Soon, Stark returned to the opera house for the first time since he was hospitalised. Armed with a shotgun and a flashlight, he crossed the two-week old police tape and scoured the building.
But he found nothing.
Everything that happened before this point was played when we were in Sitiawan a last month. We were interrupted then. We continued earlier today at home.
Without nothing to go on, Stark started to drive back to his apartment.
At a stoplight, the world shook violently. The quake caused the roads to shudder and the streetlamps to shudder and spark. A streetlamp beside Stark’s car fell toward him. He hit the accelerator pedal and screeched out of the way safely. (36 out of 40% Drive Auto)
At his apartment building, his hallway lights flickered and died. Distressed, Stark drew his weapon. Thankfully (with a Spot Hidden check of 26 out of 85) he scanned the corridor and was certain that he was alone. He quickly entered his apartment and locked the door.
There was a text message on his phone. The number was blocked. It read: HELP ME!
Unable to determine the sender and exhausted beyond belief, he went to bed.
He woke up suddenly. A ghostly green light was glowing from beyond his curtained windows. He looked at this clock and it was 3 AM. He inched toward his window and peeked through the curtain.
The night sky was on fire and the fire was green. Something unthinkably huge was standing, a shimmering shadow beyond the blossoming flames in the sky. Stark remembered the spell he learned from Mr. Chao (Sense Life, which costs him 1 Magic Point and 1 Sanity Point) and suddenly he knew that someone was out on his small balcony accessible from his living room. He felt as if the world was spinning and collapsing around him. The only sound he could hear was the deep rumbling from the sky above.
From the living room, he carefully drew back the curtains, his pistol ready. A woman stood on the balcony with her back to Stark. Stark stood there, uncertain and in utter dread and fear. He took too long considering his next move when the woman spun suddenly.
Her skin was pallid, perhaps because of the green night sky. But her eyes were holes of red with blood flowing out of it. There were worms writhing in her eye sockets straining and stretching out of it as if grasping for something. Then Eleanor Stark, DJ’s mother, screamed in rage, “WHY DID YOU NOT SAVE ME? YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SAVE ME!” The worms writhed even harder.
Then Stark woke up. (Sanity check is 53 over 67, losing only 1 Sanity Point.)
There was no green light outside. The clock read 12 midnight (though originally I narrated it as 2 AM). He double checked by looking out the window. There were people and traffic on the streets. He called up Eleanor who had been asleep but his mother reported with annoyance that everything was fine.
He received another text message. HELP ME! PLEASE! This time it was followed by an address.
An hour later, Detective Stark was pulled up before an abandoned five-story apartment building across the city. He cast the spell to detect living things. He discovered that there was only one: on the third floor. There was a second quake, and the street undulated beneath him before ceasing.
He crept into the building with his shotgun and flashlight ready. He noticed a huge trail of mud that appeared from the basement door and tracked up the central stairwell. The trail went into the hallway of the third floor and appeared to enter an apartment door.
The door was totally mud-encrusted, as if someone had pasted a ton of mud on it. Stark tried the doorknob and the mud crumbled, revealing the shape of the door. Shotgun ready, he swept into the living room. The entire living room, too, had been plastered by mud, especially at where the ceilings and floors met the wall and in the corners. There were no sharp angles at all. Stark made sure the living room was empty before moving to the bedroom.
There, a ghoul awaited him with a phone. Stark aimed his shotgun at the foul-smelling creature with what seems to be a muzzle of a canine. The ghoul raised his arms, “Please, you have to help me. Please. You are my only hope. You are our only hope.”
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“It’s me!” growled the ghoul. “It’s Wilson.”
Although his traitorous partner had disappeared in the 7th Avenue incident, they never found Wilson’s body, he thought.
“Tell me everything.”
The ghoul stuttered and growled through his words, “We thought that the Many-Bodied One was our saviour! We had thought that Sharakh-Kheth would be thankful to us for his return, but we were all wrong. The ghouls under San Francisco. The Pale Nurses. A dozen other cults. We were wrong. After I was taken by Sharakh-Kheth’s light, I was sent to the future. It was our future.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Sharakh-Kheth. He is not what he claims. He is more that that. He is a Great Old One. When he returns, he will kill us all. He will kill everyone. In the future that I saw, the only person that could stop it is you. But you must do something, something that you might not want to do.”
“You saw some of our methods of summoning Sharakh-Kheth, yes? We feed it sacrificed corpses. We need to give it 3,333 dead bodies, then it will use all the corpses to return to this world. We have to stop it or this world will die. My people have given it 3,332 bodies.”
“Who is the last person?”
“I have a list, here in this room for you – Wait. Did you close the door?”
Stark did not. He turned. In the darkness, smoke was billowing in through the open front door, as if produced by a third rate smoke machine.
Suddenly, Wilson was more afraid and looked more pathetic than Stark has ever seen him. “They are here. I should not have gone to look in the future. They caught my scent when I wasn’t supposed to be and they have been hunting me since, from aeons in the future. The Hounds of Tindalos are here!”
“Stay here!” Stark entered the living room, his shotgun pointed at the front door. Obscured by the smoke, red eyes on black shadow crept into the room. There were more than two eyes attached to the head.
The skeletal, four-legged thing emerged from the mist, growling. (Stark only lost 1 Sanity Points here.) It came in to attack Stark. The shotgun went off, striking its head which burst open like a melon. But the hound still stood, half its face blown away. (Shotgun roll of 21/59, inflicting 8 damage.) The hound leapt up and pawed Stark with its talons (causing 5 points of damage, Hit Points reduced to 7). Acid pus burned Stark’s bicep where he was wounded. He (rolled a 51/85 for a DEX x5 check and) quickly removed his jacket, wiped away most of the secretion and threw the hissing ball of fabric away. He noticed two other hounds running directly into the bedroom. The first hound stood its ground, as if forbidding him to follow suit. Stark used his last shotgun slug (with a roll of 23/59, for 12 points of damage) to blow the hound’s front right leg off. It fell and struggled to stand.
Stark heard a deep, inhuman guttural scream from the other room.
Then the two hounds ran back out and into the hallway outside, followed by the slower first hound. The smoke was following them out.
Stark ran into the bedroom and discovered Wilson a lifeless husk of skin and bones, as if he was a old rotten fruit. Stark quickly looked for the list Wilson had mentioned. He uncovered a dresser under a mound of dried mud which concealed a scroll that described the Hounds of Tindalos, and a scrap of paper with a list of names. All the names were crossed out except for the last:
3329 Paige Riordan
3330 Raymond Chao
3331 Caldwell Broome
3332 Alexei Solonitsyn
3333 Eleanor Stark
Eleanor Stark was the 3,333rd and final corpse to be fed to Sharakh-Kheth!
He ran out of the apartment and saw no sign of the hounds. As he sprinted for his car, he heard a screaming. Across the road was a homeless man, fallen on the sidewalk and squirming in pain. His companion yelled, “Help us! Help us please! He just fell!” Stark rushed to help. The man on the ground had blood on his face… from his eyes. His eyes burst open and worms began writhing out of them. (San check: 12 points! 1 Sanity Point lost!) Stark used his police radio to call for an ambulance. The other man pleaded for him to stay, but Stark apologised. He had someone to save: his mother.
His car sped on the streets of San Francisco toward Eleanor’s home. Suddenly, another quake hit. A fissure opened up across the road before him. He floored the vehicle. It sailed over the chasm. (Drive Auto failure 64 out of 40%. Uh oh.)
The car’s front end smashed into the far edge of the chasm. It somersaulted once and rolled violently on the ground on the other side of the fissure. Debris flew in all directions, as did hope.
I rolled a d8 damage and got a 7. Stark had 7 Hit Points left. I still had one more session planned, so I asked for a Luck roll, which failed at 85/70. Stark would not survive this crash. There went the final session. So I went for broke…
Stark had glass in his face, which was wet with fresh blood. He could not feel anything below his waist. The car was on its side. He saw three things as his blood began to deplete:
Firstly, people had been coming to his aid. But instead they all fell onto the ground, screaming with pain and madness, after which they started crawling towards him with blood and worms in their vacant eyes sockets.
Secondly, he saw a bright green flash at the top of the 555 California Street building many, many miles away. The sky began to burn with green fire. From horizon to horizon. It was 3 AM.
Finally, a gigantic arm made of hundreds of corpses reached down through the green fire to the top of the building. It retrieved another body. Stark though, It’s the final body. The arm retracted toward a large shadowy figure beyond the veil of green flame. It seemed to attach the final body onto what seemed to be its forehead.
The flame disappeared, but the night sky glowed red. The shadowy form coalesced into something else. It straighted up, revealing a head with tentacles hanging down from its face almost like a lifeless effigy. Suddenly, bat-like wings extended, covering half the sky with its shadow. Other skyscrapers in view were collapsing. Where a building collapsed, an enormous tube-like worm creature dozens of stories tallw emerged from under the city. Another skyscraper fell. And another.
The entire world was shuddering.
But for Stark, he saw and felt nothing but the end. He never even felt being eaten from the legs up.
- Irfan’s second Player Character death after Finn Riverwyld in BareBones Fantasy
- The dream sequence jump scare made Irfan jump out of his skin. I should do more of those in horror games later.