The Quill Shoebox
#1
Quill is a different kind of solo RPG game. In Quill it is your character’s job to write a letter -- yes, an actual letter -- and the better the letter the greater chance your letter will be received favorably.  

To play Quill you first need to pick a character from the available archetypes.  Each archetype has three Stats: Language (how well your vocabulary is), Heart (how much emotion you write with), and Penmanship (how visually pleasing is your letter). Each stat is assigned a number of six-sided dice. Additionally, you get to choose 1 skill which you can use once per letter.

Next, you pick a scenario. Each scenario provides all the information you need to write your letter. First, it has a Profile, which explains to who are you writing, the reason for the letter, and what you hope to accomplish by writing. Next, you are given any specific rules that either need to be followed or might offer you an advantage. Third is the Inkpot. This is a list of words (both inferior and superior) that you will choose from. Finally, each scenario has a list of consequences, or reactions to your letter, based on your final score.

You will need to write a five-paragraph letter. For each paragraph, you will choose one word from the inkpot to include. The rules for choosing your word are as follows:

1. Decide if you want to add flourish (or additional description) to your word. If so, roll your heart dice. If one of the dice is 5 or 6, you may add flourish. This is an optional choice as the flourish may help or hurt your score based on the next roll.

2. Roll your language dice to determine if you can choose a superior word or if you have to settle for an inferior word. Once again, a 5 or 6 lets you choose a superior word and you gain 1 point. If you added flourish to the superior word, you score 2 additional points. However, if you decided to add flourish and the word is inferior you lose 1 point.

Once you have finished your paragraph you roll your Penmanship dice to see how visually pleasing your writing is. If you roll a 5 or 6 you gain 1 point. When all five paragraphs are complete, add up your score and compare it with the Consequences list for the scenario to determine what result your letter has.

In reality, what you actually write has no bearing on the result of the game since everything is determined by random dice rolls. However, if you are creative it is a nice writing exercise that can be fun and gets the creative juices flowing.

If anyone wants to try Quill I would invite you to post your letters here in this thread (hence the name, Quill Shoebox, since it is common to collect letters in a shoebox). I will start it off with a letter of my own.
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#2
The Father by Teviko604

Format: I will post my final letter as is. Inkpot words will be in red, flourish in blue.  Then, once the letter is complete I will post my scoring per paragraph. Finally, I will post the consequence. 

Character: I chose the Knight which gave me  3 Heart dice, 1 Language dice, and 2 Penmanship dice. I decided to use the character Harper Wyghtwing from my Roses & Wyght stories. However, nothing in this letter is to be considered canon unless it actually appears in the formal campaigns.

Skill: I chose Augmentation which adds +1 to a Heart test. In hindsight, this was a foolish choice as I already had 3 dice in heart. I really needed Inspiration to boost my language.

Profile: You are writing to inform a father about the death of his son.

Rules of Correspondence: Monks gain an advantage, which doesn’t apply to me.


The Letter:

Greetings Mr. Winsborough,

This is Harper Wyghtwing. I trust you remember me. My parents are Ryan and Jutte Wyghtwing and I grew up with your young boy Rupert. He and I used to hunt together in the forests just outside of Swifthaven. While he did look to me for advice, he was already a skilled bowman in his own right. 

As I’m sure my parents mentioned I moved several months ago to the city of Duskcall. I have done well here, even gaining a position with the King’s Guard. You can imagine my surprise when I ran into Rupert at The Flaming Friar, one of the bawdy houses where I go from time to time for a drink and a game of cards. He told me he had come to Duskcall to sell some tanned hides and a bit of your wife’s needlework. I bought him a drink and we spent the rest of the night catching up. 

Which brings me to the reason for this correspondence. It is with the deepest sorrow that I must inform you of an unfortunate situation concerning your son. A couple of days past while on patrol I was hailed by a frantic woman who directed me to where a small crowd had gathered at the mouth of an alley. Their attention was directed at something inside the narrow passageway. I pushed my way through and saw a pair of legs protruding from a pile of sacks and refuse. Looking closer I discovered the man was Rupert.

From the bruises and blood on his face and body, Rupert’s death appeared to be the result of a brutal beating. A quick search of his pockets revealed they were empty and no coin pouch could be found. It is my guess that, only being familiar with village life, Rupert was naive about the dangers of the big city. He must have been out late and not aware of the fact that the district he was walking through housed several thieves and ruffians. I suspect he made an easy target, was mugged and left to die. 

While it may not have been expected of me, I feel I have failed Rupert, as well as you and Mrs. Winsborough, by not taking a greater interest in warning him of the dangers of the city. This was an unfamiliar place for him and I should have offered more guidance. I hope that you can forgive me. I know it is of little consolation, but I spent my own coin to purchase a fine mahogany coffin for Rupert. Furthermore, I will personally escort the carriage that will carry him back to Swifthaven and stay through the funeral. In the meantime, I am sending this letter ahead so it will be less of a shock when we arrive.  

With regrets,

Harper Wyghtwing


Scoring:

P1 - Flourish: 5,6,6 Success   Inkpot: 4 Inferior word (-1 for flourish)  Penmanship: 3,4 Fail  Score=-1

P2 - Flourish: Did not roll   Inkpot: 3 Inferior word   Penmanship: 2,5 Success   Score=1

P3 - Flourish: 2,3,5 Success   Inkpot: 6 Superior word (flourish adds 2 points)   Penmanship: 3,3, Fail   Score=3

P4 - Flourish: Did not roll   Inkpot: 2 Inferior word   Penmanship: 1,3 Fail   Score=0

P5 - Flourish: 5,1,2 Success   Inkpot: 5 Superior word (Yes!- and flourish adds 2 points)   Penmanship: 2,5 Success   Score=4

Total Letter Score: 7


Result: 

Anthony is clearly disappointed in how you have relayed the information to him, but he does not blame you.
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#3
Halloween Quill: Shadow and Ink Part 1

To get in the Halloween spirit  Wink I’ve decided to play through the Quill campaign Shadow and Ink.  This campaign presents five scenarios that are inspired by the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. Each scenario can be played on its own or as part of a bigger story. If you play the latter (which is what I am planning on doing) you can score “Story Points” for each letter. If you are able to complete all five scenarios your total “Story Points” determines the final ending of the campaign. In addition to the new scenarios, Shadow and Ink offers six new characters to play.

Inkpot words will be in red, flourish in blue.  The results of the dice rolls for each paragraph are noted after the letter.


Letter 1 - Vir Stellas

Character: Historian    (Skill: Detailed  +1 dice to a single Heart test) 

Penmanship: Good (3d)
Language: Average (2d)
Heart: Poor (1d)

Profile Summary (see product for full profile): 1887 - While in England, I have come into possession of an ancient book through auction. The book is written in an unknown language and most of what I can gather about its contents come from the drawings included with the text. I am unsettled by the book and decide to write to my friend Pierre who is an expert in the occult.

Rules of Correspondence: You will try to put forward your disgust and disturbance at the text - gain +1 to Heart rolls.

(The rules of Quill state your letter needs to be five paragraphs long. For proper form, I felt the final sentences of this letter should really be a separate paragraph. I did not make any rolls nor scored anything in this last paragraph.)

*   *   *   *   *

Pierre,

I realize this letter is long overdue and that you are probably eager to learn of my trip to England. As you are aware, this trip was prompted by my interest in a particular item to be sold by Sotheby’s. This particular volume -- the Vir Stellas -- was unique to me as I had never encountered any mention of it in any of my historical studies. Bidding on the item was fierce. Most buyers dropped out once the price reached one and a half times it appraised value. However, one gentleman of middle eastern descent seemed particularly intent on securing ownership. But I had to own the Stellas. We went back and forth until, at last, I posted the winning bid, the highest price I have ever paid for a single item and much more than any sane person would have spent on an artifact they know so little about. 

Upon return to my room following the auction I wasted little time before making an examination of the volume. I set it on my desk and studied it for a long time before even opening the cover. The exquisitely decorated tome was covered in intricately tooled leather. Grand designs of criss-cross patterns broken by all manner of geometric shapes lined the edges and filled the corners. Many hours of work must have been spent on the light tan material. I can only guess that previous owners took great care of preservation as little sign of wear could be detected either by sight or touch. 

Finally, it was time to open this mysterious book and see what was inside. The text was written in black ink by a flowing hand, each word a work of art. You can imagine my dismay, Pierre, at the realization that the text was a language of which I had no knowledge. I knew it was unlikely that it would be as plain as French or English. Still, the words on the pages bore no resemblance to any tongue of which I have encountered. Several days later I did bring the volume to a professor I know who specializes in ancient and obscure languages, but even he was unable to decipher even the tiniest fragment of what was written.

However, my friend, it was not a total disappointment, for throughout the manuscript are the most detailed, intricate, and, if I may be blunt, disturbing illustrations. While several of the drawings depicted buildings, maps, and abstract symbols, the majority represented hideous and grotesque creatures. Some were humanoid with multiple limbs or wings, like demons escaped from hell. Others had fish or serpent-like bodies. They were all shapes and sizes. Large bulbous beings with many eyes and tentacles. Small insectile critters. By the time I turned the last page my hands trembled and perspiration dotted my forehead.

But I save the most distressing thing for last. A single page, right in the center of the Vir Stellas, contained nothing but blackness, stretching from edge to edge. It perfectly resembled nothingness. Yet, I found it hard to ignore and I kept returning to that page. I stared long and hard, at first seeing nothing. Then suddenly images began to appear in the darkness. First, I witnessed magnificent heavenly bodies: stars, planets, comets. I felt as though I was actually flying among them. Next, I saw several of the disgusting creatures flying toward me. I wanted to flee, yet felt compelled to await their arrival. Finally, I heard voices calling to me, enticing me to join them. I was losing control of my own will and it took all my effort to close the book, ending the vision. Checking my timepiece, I discovered I had lost track of over two hours! 

Pierre, as I know you have vast experience studying the occult I urge you to write back upon receipt of this letter with any explanation you might have. Do you know anyone who might analyze this dreadful book and offer insight into its origin or purpose? I intend on returning to France shortly, however, if you have any colleagues in England who might be able to help, I am willing to stay and await your arrival, should that seem more expeditious.

Your friend,
Hampton McMillan


Scoring:

P1 - Flourish: 2+1=3 Fail   Inkpot: 1,1 inferior word   Penmanship: 1,4,6  Success  
        Total Score: 1

P2 - Flourish: 4+1=5 Success    Inkpot: 4,5 Superior word   Penmanship: 2,5,6 Success   
        Total Sore: 4

P3 - Flourish: 4+1=5 Success   Inkpot: 3,5 Superior Word   Penmanship: 1,3,6  Success   
        Total Score: 4

P4 - Flourish: 5+1 Success   Inkwell: 2,6  Superior Word   Penmanship: 4,5,6 Success   
        Total Score: 4

P5 - Flourish: 6+1 Success    Inkpot: 4,5 Superior Work    Penmanship: 1,1,5 Success  
        Total Score: 4  

Total Letter Score: 17 

Result: It doesn’t take long to receive a response from Pierre, who is clearly excited in the way he writes. He has read of Vir Stellas many years ago. The tome was said to have been a myth, but he always believed there was evidence to suggest that it was real. While he is unsure of exactly what the contents are about, he does believe it could be a magical text. He says that he is visiting you immediately to see the book for himself. Gain 2 story points.
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#4
Halloween Quill: Shadow and Ink Part 2

Inkpot words will be in red, flourish in blue.  The results of the dice rolls for each paragraph are noted after the letter.

Letter 2 - Inheriting Darkness

Character: Student   (Skill: Inspiration  +1 dice to a single Language test) 

Penmanship: Average (2d)
Language: Poor (1d)
Heart: Good (3d)

Profile summary (see product for full profile): I have inherited the Vir Stellas from my grandfather. With help from letters and notes exchanged between my grandfather and Pierre Durand, I can interpret some of the text. From the little I am able to read of the text, it appears to contain, among other things, certain rituals that might open a window to another world or reality. However, these rituals require two people to perform. I am writing to my friend Jemima Carter in New Orleans in the hopes that she will meet me in Arkham, Mass. and assist me in completing the ritual since she has expressed a knowledge of the dark arts and magic.

Rules of correspondence: Use your most persuasive language. Your first language roll automatically succeeds.

*   *   *   *   *

My dear friend Jemima,

It is with great excitement that I am writing to you. For the past couple of weeks, I have been in the United States, specifically Arkham, Maine, visiting a friend of mine who is in the hospital recovering from a severe illness. Catherine and I grew up together in France and she is like a sister to me. But that is not the reason I am sending you this letter. I was hoping to inveigle you to come up from New Orleans for a visit before I must return home in the fall for classes. There is a matter that I believe with which you might be able to assist me.

Several months ago my mother's parents both passed away suddenly. Shortly before leaving on this trip, I learned that my Grandpa McMillan left me his book collection as an inheritance. I could keep any that might help me with my studies or hold my interest for other reasons. The rest I was free to sell, with one exception. Within the library safe, there was one tome that I was forbidden to dispose of. Curious, I used the brass key that unlocked the safe and retrieved the volume. It was a thick book with a beautiful leather cover. A quick scan of the pages made me think it was a collection of ghost stories, as pictures of monstrous creatures interspersed the handwriting throughout. I could not confirm this, however, as the words were written in some obscure language. Along with the book were a stack of letters, correspondence between my grandpa and his close friend Pierre Durand, who also passed recently.

Knowing I would have a lot of time on my hands I brought the book and letters with me. Reading through the correspondence I soon discovered that my initial thoughts were in error. Instead of stories, it appears the book is a collection of religious and mystical texts. My Grandpa and M. Durand called it the Vir Stellas and they seemed to believe that not only was it authentic, but that the creatures and places mentioned within actually exist. At first, I brushed their theories off as nonsense. However, reading through some of the pieces of the text that they were able to translate (and record in their notes) I am starting to believe them myself.

Grandpa and M. Durand’s research had turned up other writings and lore that seemed to support and confirm the little they knew about the Vir Stellas. But what has had the greatest effect on me is the “Black Page.” This page is exactly as it sounds . . . a solid black page. It seemed uninteresting at first, yet I couldn’t help but continue to study it. After a while, I began to see shapes and images form from the blackness. They were mesmerizing. Also, I heard voices -- whether they were audible or just in my mind I can not be sure -- which I believe were the beings attempting to communicate with me. The more I studied the Black Page the easier it became to translate more of the text. While there is still a lot that is foreign to me, I have uncovered what I believe to be instructions for an ancient ritual. While I am still trying to understand the full purpose of the ritual, I am convinced that performing it will allow for direct communication with the beings, perhaps even physical travel into their world or dimension.

While such an endeavor interests me greatly, I have come across a setback. It appears that the ritual requires two people, one to communicate with the beings and one to act as an anchor to this world. I am hesitant to share this information with anyone in Arkham but felt that you might be the perfect person to assist me. In our past correspondence, you had mentioned that you have studied many of the dark arts there in New Orleans and even have begun to think of yourself as a witch. As you already have a belief in the occult and are experienced in incantations and mystic rites -- at least more than I -- I feel safe sharing this with you and asking you to join me in Arkham. I do hope you will consider this. I don’t know what we will find but I’m sure it will be enlightening.

I look forward to your response.

Pauline Courbet


P1 - Flourish: 1,3,4 fail   Inkpot: Automatically succeeds - superior word   Penmanship: 3,5 success   
        Total Score: 2

P2 - Flourish: 2,3,4 fail   Inkpot: 6 - superior word   Penmanship: 3,3 fail  
        Total Score: 1

P3 - Flourish: pass   Inkpot: 3 - inferior word   Penmanship: 4,6 success   
        Total Score: 1

P4 - Flourish: 1,6,6 success   Inkpot: 3, 4 (used Inspiration skill to roll second die) - inferior word (-1 to score due to flourish)   Penmanship: 3,6  success   
        Total Score: 0

P5 - Flourish: pass   Inkpot: 1 - inferior word   Penmanship: 2,5 success   
        Total Score: 1

Total Letter Score: 5

Result: Jemima writes back after a month of waiting. Her response disappoints you greatly and you fall into a great depression after reading her words. She says she no longer works with the dark arts and warns you about doing the same. She tells you not to write again unless it’s to warm her soul with good news. Your investigation has come to an end.

An abrupt end to this campaign, but that’s what happens when the dice do not roll our way. It’s a shame, too, because I hadn’t yet reached the scenarios that really delved into the horror of the campaign.  Shadow and Ink does have an optional rule that allows you to write a response letter if your investigation comes to an end and hopefully score well enough to continue with the story. I am not going to do that, at least not now. It was already going to be difficult for me to finish this before Halloween and adding more letters would make it impossible. I’m not saying that I won’t try and pick it up again in the future, but I’m okay setting it aside for now.
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#5
Valentine Day 2021 - Making Amends: A Rom-Com Themed Letter

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would do a one-shot using the Quill Letter Writing RPG. For this letter, I am choosing a scenario from the Love Letters expansion to the game. I have decided to base the letter on a certain style of romantic comedy that is a hallmark of a particular television network. To do this I made some adjustments to several of the game’s elements. For starters, instead of using one of Quill’s standard classes, I made up one of my own: the suitor. For the suitor, I used the same stats as the Courtier, as I felt they best portrayed the typical leading man in these movies. In addition, I changed the name of the recipient of the letter to make it more modern. Finally, for proper form, the letter required six paragraphs instead of Quill’s standard five. The last paragraph is not scored and did not affect the outcome of the game.

Inkpot words are written in red.  Flourish words are written in blue.

The rolls and scores for each paragraph are listed after the letter. 

For more information on how to play quill, see my first Quill post, The Father

===========================

Making Amends

Character: Suitor (Custom class with stats based on the Courtier)   Brad (Skill: Scenario does not allow skill, so I skipped picking one) 

 Penmanship: Poor (1d)
 Language: Average (2d)
 Heart: Good (3d)

Profile: You are corresponding with Emily Penderghast, an ex-lover who left you a month ago after deciding that you weren't committed to the relationship.
You are writing to win back Emily and to explain that you have changed and are more committed than ever. You need to persuade Emily that you both have a future and give examples as to how your life is without your love.

Rules of correspondence: Emily likes when people are straightforward with their correspondence. You are unable to use any skills in this letter.

*   *   *   *   *

Dear Emily,

It has been several weeks since the Harvest Festival and the night you walked away from me, clearly embarrassed and heart-broken. I am writing to you now to admit that I had been a fool. I assumed things that I shouldn’t have and made decisions for us without considering your own feelings.

Two months ago you returned to Meadowville to help your father with the watermelon harvest after he contracted COVID-19. I remember the day I drove out to the farm to deliver a truckload of fertilizer your father bought from my parent’s ranch. Not having seen you since high school, you can imagine my surprise when you answered the door. I took one look at you and thought to myself, “Little Emily Penderghast is all grown up!” Seeing you standing there with your fancy dress, high heels, and made-up face, I was certain you wouldn't last a week on the farm. (I also thought you should be wearing a mask.)

Those first few days proved me right. I would stop by the farm and see you dripping with sweat and muddy from head to toe. Your back ached from lifting the melons and your hands were blistered from gipping the tools. You swore that eternal Hellfire would be preferential to suffering another day picking melons and living in this backwoods town. You made it clear that as soon as the harvest was over you would be returning to the big city and your job as a publishing agent. After all, you were on track to become a Head Editor and you made sure I knew you had a boyfriend back home.

But things slowly began to change. I would come by to help you on the farm and teach you ways to work smarter instead of harder. When we had time I drove you into town and showed you the charms life in Meadowville had to offer. Somehow I even convinced you to help out on the Harvest Festival Planning Committee. We would work the fields in the morning, prepare for the festival in the afternoon, and share a glass of wine under the twinkling stars at night. That’s when something curious began to happen. I was falling for you, Emily Penderghast. And it felt like you were falling for me as well.

I was going to tell you how I felt during the Harvest Festival. I had purchased a watermelon daiquiri, your favorite drink, from one of the stands and was bringing it to you at the gazebo when I saw you with Harold, your boyfriend. He came to the festival to surprise you and you wrapped your arms around him and gave him a big hug. Imagine how sad I felt when I realized you had your life and promotion back in the city and I could never hope that we would ever have a life together. So that night I told you that our relationship was getting in the way of my duties on my parent’s ranch and that it would be best if we went our own ways. How was I to know that you had quit your job in the city to stay in Meadowville to help your father run the melon farm due to the virus robbing him of his sense of taste and the ability to perform proper quality control? Or that you just broke up with Harold and were just giving him a hug good-bye?

As I wrote at the start of this letter, I was a fool. If only I had talked with you and told you how I felt, then I would have known that you felt the same. I have been lost without you and all I can think about is our days and nights together.  If it is in your heart to forgive me, then I would beg you for another chance.  I want to share my life with you, Emily. I dream of us working your family’s farm together: plowing your fields, tending your crops, and grabbing your melons at harvest. I can only pray that you still feel the same. I eagerly await your response.

With sincerest apologies,
Brad

P1 - Flourish: 1,4,4 Fail   Inkpot: 1,5 Success - superior word   Penmanship: 6 Success   
        Total Score: 2

P2 - Flourish: 1,5,6 Success   Inkpot: 2,2,  Fail - inferior word (-1 for flourish)   Penmanship: 5 Success    
        Total Score: 0

P3 - Flourish: 2,2,4 Fail   Inkpot: 6, 6 Success - superior word   Penmanship: 5 success   
        Total Score: 2

P4 - Flourish: 1, 4, 5 Success   Inkpot: 1,3 Fail - inferior word (-1 for flourish)   Penmanship: 2 Fail   
        Total Score: -1

P5 - Flourish: 1,2,2 Fail   Inkpot: 2,4 Fail-inferior word   Penmanship: 4 Fail   
        Total Score: 0

P6 - Not scored. Added only to finish out the letter.

Total Letter Score: 3

Result: Less than 5 points: Emily writes back. She is put off at your lack of faith in her and finds your behavior immature. You are horrid and your letter lacks sincerity. In no uncertain terms, she makes it painfully clear that you are the last person she would let plant their seeds in her fertile soil. In fact, she seriously doubts you have any seeds to plant. She is civil enough, however, to wish you well, but never speaks to you again.

(Actual text: Emily writes back, believing that you are worse than ever and that there is no hint of sincerity in your writing. You receive no further correspondence.)

Well, this is not how these movies typically end. I guess this story was featured on that lesser-known television network: the Hellmark Channel.
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#6
(02-12-2021, 11:15 AM)Teviko604 Wrote: the Hellmark Channel.

LOL!  Priceless.
[-] The following 1 user Likes mark's post:
  • Teviko604
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#7
Halloween Quill 2021: Shadow and Ink - Part 3

Letter 3: Inheriting Darkness Rewrite

Last October I began playing through the Quill Letter Writing game supplement called Shadow and InkShadow is a five-letter campaign that is based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Each correspondence in the scenario can earn you a certain amount of story points which, when totaled up at the end, reveals the final outcome of the campaign. Last year, I failed on the second letter which ended the campaign prematurely. However, Shadow and Ink allows you a chance to write a second letter to the recipient and hopefully change their mind.

My last campaign ended when my character wrote to a friend who was practiced in the Dark Arts to ask for her help in a ritual that would connect my character to mysterious creatures from another world or dimension. The friend refused and begged me to drop the whole idea. (You can read the entire campaign starting here.) 

This letter picks up at that point.  So far, I have earned 2 Story Points in this campaign.

Background info:


Character: Student   Pauline Courbet (Skill: Inspiration  +1 dice to a single Language test) 

 Penmanship: Average (2d)
 Language: Poor (1d)
 Heart: Good (3d)

Profile: You have inherited the Vir Stellas from my grandfather. With help from letters and notes exchanged between your grandfather and Pierre Durand, you can interpret some of the text. From the little you are able to read of the text, it appears to contain, among other things, certain rituals that might open a window to another world or reality. However, these rituals require two people to perform. You are writing to your friend Jemima Carter in New Orleans in the hopes that she will meet you in Arkham, Mass., and assist you in completing the ritual since she has expressed a knowledge of the dark arts and magic.

Rules of correspondence: Use your most persuasive language. Your first language roll automatically succeeds.

Inkpot words will be printed in red,  flourish in blue. The scores for each paragraph are listed after the letter.

*   *   *   *   *

My dear friend Jemima,

Please forgive me if my previous correspondence upset you. I realize now how fantastic my story, without any preamble, must have sounded. Furthermore, I did not realize that your interest in the magical arts had waned. Had I known, I would not have involved you, lest my impropriety damage our beautiful relationship.

Instead, I attempted to take your advice and put the whole matter out of my mind. Between visits to Catherine in the hospital, I would take walks along forested paths, sit at the wharf and watch the ships come and go, or spend afternoons at the university library reading. However, whenever I sat down to pen a letter telling you about the pleasant time I was having, I could only write a sentence or two before my words drifted to things I had read in the Vir Stellas. I even found myself sketching some of its intricate hieroglyphs in the margins. Needless to say, I would destroy the letter and abandon the task till the morrow when I would try again, hopefully with more success.

While annoying, I could bear these distractions until a couple of nights ago. In my sleep, I was visited by a tall gentleman wearing fine clothes and carrying a jewel topped walking stick.  His hardened face bore scars resembling many of the same symbols I saw in the ancient book. He beckoned to me and I gave in to his call. He led me out of the house and across the yard where he took my hand. I can’t explain what happened next, Jemima, but we were flying. Not in the air but through space. We passed planets and stars, soaring from one galaxy to the next. My guide showing me worlds inhabited by all means of creatures. Some were dark and terrifying, bulbous beings covered with scales and sleek winged wyverns. Others radiated light and were warm and welcoming.

The dream, if that’s what it truly was, was intoxicating. I wish you could have experienced it. I wanted to stay and talk with these otherworldly beings, at least the welcoming ones. I wanted to explore their worlds. But my guide told me this was only a glimpse of what I could experience. Everything I longed for I would have, but only by way of the ritual found in the Vir Stellas. That was the gateway that would open these worlds to me, worlds I could only catch glimpses of otherwise. When he finished speaking, he let go of my hand and I awoke, alone and cold in my bed.

Now I cannot push those visions from my mind. My soul is empty, aching to visit those other-worldly places. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I find no joy in my walks, books, or things of this dull world. I fear my only salvation will be to give in to the ritual. This is why I am making one more attempt to persuade you to come to Arkham and help me. I know your thoughts on the matter, you made them clear. However, I fear that I shall fall into a deep depression if I remain here. In fact, I already feel it coming on. It is as foreboding as death. If you care at all for me, Jemima, I beg you to reconsider. Please. Come. My life depends upon it.

Your old friend,

Pauline

P1 - Flourish: 1,2,3 fail   Inkpot: Automatically succeeds per rules of correspondence - superior word   Penmanship: 2,5 success   
        Total Score: 2

P2 - Flourish: 1,5,5 Succeed   Inkpot: (use inspiration to add die) 3,6 Success - superior word   Penmanship: 3, 4 fail
        Total Score: 3

P3 - Flourish: Pass   Inkpot: 4 Fail - inferior word   Penmanship: 3, 4 fail        Total Score:0

P4 - Flourish: Pass   Inkpot: 3 inferior word   Penmanship: 3,4 Fail  Total Score: 0

P5 - Flourish: Pass  Inkpot: 4 inferior word   Penmanship: 2, 6  Total Score: 1

Total Letter Score: 6

6-8 points

Jemima responds that she will visit, more out of concern for Pauline than any eagerness to be involved with the occult. Still, she is mildly intrigued by what Pauline has told her about the Vir Stellas and she would like to have a look at it herself. After reading through it, she will decide whether or not it would be wise, or at least somewhat safe, to perform the ritual.

Actual text from the rules: Jemima is intrigued by your proposal, although is concerned about invoking a power that she knows nothing about. She says that she will visit, but must be convinced further by reading the book herself. Gain 1 story point.

Total Story Points: 3

Author’s note: Wow. Having only 1 Language die was really a handicap. I was too scared to try any flourish as long as I was on the fringe of 5-6 points, for fear that I would fail my inkpot roll and end up losing a point. I’m glad I made that last Penmanship roll. I was really concerned that this year’s delve into horror was going to end after only one letter. Next letter I will choose a class with a better Language skill.
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#8
Halloween Quill 2021: Shadow and Ink - Part 4

Letter 4: Ceremony Of Scars

Background info:

Character: Scientist   Eli Jones (Skill: Detailed  +1 dice to a single Heart test) 

 Penmanship: Poor (1d)
 Language: Average (2d)
 Heart: Good (3d)

Profile: You have arrived in Arkham, Massachusetts to check on close friend Jemima Carter. Several months ago she traveled to Arkham in response to a request from one of her friends who had stumbled upon an item of great mystery. Knowing you are a man of science, Jemima has written to you several times for your advice concerning her friend’s deteriorating health, both physical and mental. It appears this decline is in response to a growing interest in the occult, an interest that has led to a neglect of general care (she is not eating much and wasting away) and physical harm to her own body, the specific details of which Jemima has not divulged to you. Then suddenly the letters stopped. Having your own concerns, you decided to pay a visit and check on Jemima yourself.

Goal: You must encourage Paul Washington, a friend from university and a journalist in Boston, to join you in your investigation, as you mean to set out into the woods to discover any clues about the cause of Jemima's death.

Rules of correspondence: Paul is fact-oriented and does not enjoy exaggeration. You have a -1 to Heart rolls.

Inkpot words will be printed in red,  flourish in blue. The scores for each paragraph are listed after the letter.

*   *   *   *   *

Paul,

I arrived in Arkham a week ago and I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner. As you know from my previous correspondence, I had hoped that we might get together to catch up on our lives since school. However, things have grown a bit more severe and I fear I might require your assistance on another matter.

I told you my purpose for coming to Massachusetts was to check on a friend of mine who had apparently gotten involved in matters of the occult. Upon arrival in town, I immediately went to the residence where she was staying. The front door was ajar and no one answered when I knocked, so I decided to enter. I called out to no avail and I assumed no one was home. To be sure, however, I ascended the stairs and entered a bedroom where I encountered an awful scene. Lying in a pool of dried blood were two women, one of which was my friend. Their bodies were covered in cuts and scars that seemed intentional, as they resembled hieroglyphs. I was about to run and fetch the authorities, if for no other reason than to flee from the gory scene, when my attention was drawn to the walls of the room. They were covered in various writings, some in English, others in a language I could not read. I became so enthralled studying them that I nearly forgot about the bodies. The words spoke about “old ones,” and “elder gods.” using words such as “Shaggoth” and “Tengu”. The most intriguing, by far, were references to some kind of Star Man

Eventually, I regained an awareness of my surroundings and fetched the police. After they took the bodies to the corner and cleared the house of any other documents they found, the authorities assured me they would begin a full investigation before dismissing the event as a ritual suicide. I will admit, my confidence in them is not that high.  Besides, I know Jemima and I could not fathom her taking her own life. So I began my own investigation by asking questions around town. While the residents with whom I spoke could not tell me anything specific about what happened to my friend, it was clear that they believed there was some sort of occult activity afoot in Arkham. A common tale I heard revolved around rituals in the sycamore woods that bordered the outskirts of town. While no one claimed to have been personally involved, many had witnessed robed figures, cultists they believed, walking into the woods on certain nights of the month. Around midnight, music and chanting could be heard, an eerie, pulsating incandescence glowed above the trees. Sometimes, winged aberrations could be seen passing in front of the moon.  These rituals, or whatever they were, would always end with a piercing scream.

As you know, Paul, I am not one to believe in spirit, ghosts, or the supernatural, but last night I saw something that gave me great pause. I was keeping an eye on the woods, hoping to witness one of these mysterious events for myself. Shortly after sunset, I saw three figures step off the road and head for the trees. Two were wearing hooded robes. I couldn’t tell if they were male or female. The third, who walked between them, was a woman with unkempt raven hair. I had this uncanny sense that some unholy, sinister plan was unfolding before me, so I gathered up my courage and approached. I lifted my lantern and called to them. The trio turned, startled, but not as startled as I, for the woman I saw before me was none other than my friend, Jemima. It was clearly her face, though she pale and held a blank expression. She did not look directly at me, but stared off into space. As further identification, her bare arms bore the scars I saw on her in that upstairs room. Before I could say another word, one of the robed figures grabbed her hand and hurried her away into the woods. I was rooted in place, fearful of what I might find if I followed. For the hand that grabbed Jemima’s was not human, but a scaly, sharp-pointed claw.

The next morning I was waiting for the local corner when he arrived at the morgue. I asked to see my friend’s corpse.  Even though I was the one to discover her body, he told me that was not possible. He was only authorized to let family members and officials see the body. That was hogwash and I told him so. Still, he would not relent. Paul, there is something going on in this town, some kind of cover-up, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it. My desire is to first travel into the woods and see if I can find any remnant of activity there. However, I dare not go alone and I trust no one. That is why, my old friend, I am asking you to come to Arkham and assist me. Your help would be invaluable and there might even be a story in it for you.

Your friend in need,

Eli

P1 - Flourish: 3, 4 fail   Inkpot: 1,3- inferior word   Penmanship: 4 fail   
        Total Score: 0

P2 - Flourish: 3, 3 fail   Inkpot: 3, 3- inferior word   Penmanship: 3 fail   
        Total Score: 0

P3 - Flourish: 3, 6 success  Inkpot: 2, 5 - superior word  Penmanship: 3 fail  Total score: 3

P4 - Flourish: 1, 5 Success  Inkpot: 2, 5 - superior word   Penmanship: 4  Total score: 3

P5 - Flourish: Pass  Inkpot: 1, 5 - superior word   Penmanship: 5 Success  Total score: 2

Total Letter Score: 8

6-8 points

Paul writes back to let you know that he needs to be careful and was smart in asking for assistance. While he doubts there is anything truly supernatural going on, Paul is concerned that some other criminal activity might be going on, though what it has to do with meetings in the woods he does not know. Regardless, you should expect him the next day and together the two of you should be able to at least find out what is going on with the investigation into Jemima and Pauline’s deaths.

Actual text from the rules: Paul is concerned for your well-being and his tone has an air of disbelief about your story. However, he tells you to expect him tomorrow and he looks forward to seeing you. Gain 1 story point.

Total Story Points: 4
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#9
Halloween Quill 2021: Shadow and Ink - Part 5

Letter 5: Nyarlathotep

Background info:

Character: Artist  Issac Barnard (Skill: Inspiration  +1 dice to a single Language test) 

 Penmanship: Good (3d)
 Language: Poor  (1d)
 Heart: Average (2d)

Profile: As with the past two letters, the year is 1904. You live on the edge of the northern woods. For the past several months, you have had a front-row seat for the lights, chants, and other phenomena that have been occurring from somewhere within the woods. Because of these unsettling events, you were already contemplating moving to Nebraska to live with your mother when the most recent deaths and disappearances began. First, it was that student and her friend who was staying in the home of Catherine Gale while the owner was recovering in the hospital from a serious illness. Next, a journalist from Boston and his companion went missing after heading into the woods to investigate the same lights and sounds that concerned you. However, it’s the last death, the body you personally discovered, that prompted you to alert others of the evil that might exist in Arkham, Massachusetts.

Goal: You must relay the events to the editor at the New England Journal - telling them what you saw and that people have the right to know about it. Convince them to report on it at once.

Rules of correspondence: You write on high-quality vellum paper with professional stationery. Reroll your first Penmanship test and take the highest number.

Inkpot words will be printed in red,  flourish in blue. The scores for each paragraph are listed after the letter.

*   *   *   *   *

Dear Editor,

My name is Issac Barnard and I have been a resident of Arkham, Massachusetts for nearly ten years. I am an artist by trade, and I moved to New England for an opportunity to capture the homes, people, forests, and oceanscapes of this picturesque corner of our country in my paintings. My life has been enjoyable, but recent events have disrupted the town’s peaceful nature. Several months ago, some type of nighttime gathering began in the woods near my home, and people in town have grown increasingly secretive and curious. These alone could be dismissed as oddities and mere annoyance, however, things have grown more serious with several unexplained deaths and disappearances. I would urge you, Sir, to send some of you best people down here to investigate the facts themselves and report about it in your Journal before more people die.

The worst of this started with two girls. Their bodies were found in an upstairs bedroom of the house in which they were staying. According to my friend Charlie, who worked with the police, both bodies were covered with cuts that resembled shapes and symbols.  The man who found the bodies, a man of science from what I hear, knew one of the young women. He asked a lot of questions about the goings-on around Arkham and the late-night activities in the woods. He contacted a journalist friend of his and the two of them began their own investigation, beginning with a trip into the forest. I don’t believe their search went very far, however, for they never came out and were never heard from since.

It is the most recent occurrence, however, that greatly affected me. Two days ago I was walking my dog through a field near my home when I discovered a body hidden in some brush. It turned out to be my friend Charlie, who I mentioned earlier. He was dead, of course, but what was even more shocking was the state of his body. His arms, legs, face -- any part I could see -- were covered in shapes and images, all carved into his skin. I remember him telling me about the same marks on the two dead girls. I also remember he took a particular, almost obsessive interest in their case. He suspected occult involvement, primarily due to an old book and other writings that were recovered from the house. Charlie was constantly speaking of the Man from the Stars who was coming to bring peace to our world. He spoke of these things with such passion that I wonder if he might have believed them himself. Regardless, I fear he may have become too involved and that his death is related to the others and the strange gatherings in the woods.

I have saved the next part for last, primarily so you might first have some facts that can be checked out and verified, and thus be more likely to believe what I encountered next. I admit I have taken to drinking lately, and last night I was about a quarter of the way through a fresh bottle of whiskey when I heard the cacophonous music and chanting emanate from the woods. Next, lights from the trees shone through my window and illuminated my room. I built up my courage -- I'm sure the drink helped -- and set out to discover once and for all what was happening in this town. I entered the forest and traveled about two hundred feet when I came to a clearing. A circle of people, many of them whom I recognized, danced and contorted in a circle around a large bonfire. They were buck naked, men and women both, and their bodies were covered in the same gouged-out symbols I saw on Charlie. In the center of the circle, at the edge of the fire, was a finely dressed, lanky giant. He was nearly eight feet tall, wore a coat and tails, had on a top hat, and carried a jeweled cane. I couldn’t be certain if this man, his own face scarred as well, was the dancer’s object of worship or simply the leader of the service. Either way, he cackled as everyone chanted the name Nyarlathotep, along with other nonsense words, as though they were casting some spell. Soon, tendrils of light like lightning coursed through the group, jumping from body to body. Then suddenly, a creature with wings like a bat, a body like a skeleton, and a long pointed beak with needle-like teeth descended from the sky and alit on one of the cultists. That’s when I ran!

Writing this letter is my last duty to Arkham. Once I am done I will be packing my things and making for the station. I have seen too much and I fear it will be my quietus unless I leave immediately. Even then, it might already be too late. I wish I had never heard of Arkham, Massachusetts. If this missive compels you to act -- which I hope it does -- I would urge you to send a team of journalists, for their own protection. And trust no one. This must stop. I wish you well.

Sincerely,

Issac Barnard

P1 - Flourish: pass   Inkpot: 5 - superior word   Penmanship: 4,4,5 reroll per rules 2,3,5  both succeed.           
       Total Score: 2

P2 - Flourish: 4, 4 fail   Inkpot: 2 - inferior word   Penmanship: 3,4,5 success.
        Total Score: 1

P3 - Flourish: 3, 3 fail   Inkpot: 4 - inferior word   Penmanship: 3,5,5 success.
        Total Score: 1

P4 - Flourish: 3, 5 success   Inkpot: 5 - superior word   Penmanship: 2, 5, 6 success.
        Total Score: 4

P4 - Flourish:2, 2 fail   Inkpot  (use skill, +1 die): 1, 5 - superior word   Penmanship: 5,5,success.
        Total Score: 2

Total Letter Score: 10

9+ points

The editor of the New England Journal is very intrigued by your letter and receives it with utmost seriousness. After a few inquiries, he is able to confirm the stories of the disappearances and the deaths and feels, based on your account, that a thorough investigative report would be in order. He puts his top reporter, Jacob Hughes, on the story. Hughes writes back, hoping his letter will be forwarded to your new address. He desires to interview you more fully, should that be possible, but in the meantime will travel to Arkham with two other journalists, a seasoned veteran with whom he has teamed up in the past, and a young student just starting at the paper. The three hope to interview the locals and make it out to the woods in the hopes of spying on the activities that go on at night. Hughes promises to contact you when their trip is done to give you an update and schedule a time to visit for an interview.

Actual text from the rules: The letter from the editor is everything you hoped for. He is extremely interested in following this story and is immediately dispatching the Journal’s most seasoned reporter. Before long you’re getting paid a visit by journalist Jacob Hughes who interviews you about what you saw and decides to set out into the woods at night. Gain 2 story points.

Total Story Points: 6
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#10
Halloween Quill 2021 - Shadow and Ink Part 6

Letter 6: Paradise Found

Background info:

Character: Writer (using Journalist profile)  Virginia Marlin (Skill: Detailed  +1 dice to a single Heart test, I know Steady Hand makes more strategic sense, however, the details of this letter makes that option unlikely)

Penmanship: Poor (1d)
Language: Good  (3d)
Heart: Average (2d)

Profile: You are a friend of Issac Barnard, the artist from the previous letter. You live in the nearby town of Essex and you met Issac many years ago when both of you happened to be visiting Manchester. You passed the artist on the street as he worked at his easel, capturing the morning bustle on the streets. Striking up a conversation, you bonded over your creative endeavors -- his painting, and your writing -- and you quickly became friends.

Over the past several years the two of you visited each other and spoke about collaborating on a project. You were working on a novel set in New England and Issac offered to provide some illustrations to accompany the story. It was this project that brought you to Arkham on this brisk fall day. You had arranged to look at a few of his sketches and choose two or three to be fully developed. However, upon arrival at his home on the edge of the Sycamore Wood, you were ill-prepared for what you would find.

Goal: You must convince yourself that you are sound of mind and that what you saw was a
figment - a chemical reaction in your brain. Reason as to what happened and try to maintain your sanity.

Rules of correspondence: There is only darkness. He is here by your door. Your final paragraph must be in capitals.

Inkpot words are written in red.  Flourish words are written in blue. The scores for each paragraph are listed after the letter.

*  *  *  *  *

Finally, I’m able to put my thoughts on paper. I’ve been on the run most of the night, only arriving at this hotel a little before midnight. I asked the desk clerk if there was any food leftover from dinner as I hadn’t eaten since midday. He assured me he could find something and would bring it up to me. I thanked him, retreated to my room, and locked the door. I must settle my mind. I need to make sense of what I saw, lest I go mad. I pray that writing this account will help.

I arrived in Arkham late in the afternoon and made my way to Issac’s house right about dusk. To my surprise, his front door was wide open. When I receive no response to my call, I ventured inside. The entire room was ransacked as though someone had been frantically searching for something. However, I soon came to believe that a struggle was more likely, as I spotted a stain of blood on the floor. Streak marks led to the back of the house. I figured that whatever spilled that blood either crawled or was dragged in that direction.  Fearing for my friend’s safety I followed the trail out the back door and into the fields beyond. The grass was matted where it appeared the body had been dragged, bits of blood and flesh stuck to blades of grass and the branches of shrubs. The trail led into the Sycamore Woods that bordered Issac’s property and, despite the hour, I continued.  If Issac was hurt I might be his only salvation. However, it wasn’t my friend that I found, but Betsy his dog. Her body had been torn to shreds and the exposed bones showed signs of gnawing. Could a cougar have entered the home and dragged the poor animal out here to feast?

I was so focused on finding Issac and the grisly discovery that I was unaware of the macabre scene that was unfolding several feet beyond. It was the voice, laughter, and other strange sounds that caught my attention. I looked up and saw a flicker of flame through the trees. Curious, I approached the clearing and now wish I hadn’t. On the forest floor writhed a couple dozen naken men and women. On top of them were otherworldly beings, demons, the likes of which I had never seen. They were grey and leathery with wings like a bat. Their arms ended in claws which they used to tear into their victims and their beaks were long and filled with razor-sharp teeth. Their bellies bulged as they devoured the people’s flesh.  Presiding over the scene was a tall, sinister-looking man. Satan, I thought, but those being eaten called him by another name: Nyarlathotep.

As horrid as this was, it barely compared to what I heard. The men and women on the ground, those being torn to shreds and eaten, were laughing. In fact, they seemed to enjoy what was happening and were raising up their voices with rejoicing. I felt something grip my leg and I looked down. A man, everything below his torso torn away, looked up at me and giggled. ‘Nyarlathotop has brought paradise to us,’ he said blissfully. ‘Praise be to him!’  What madness was this? I screamed as the man died at my feet. I ran.  The chanting went on behind me and I couldn’t tell if anyone followed. I didn’t stop. I didn’t look back. I just ran to town, found a vacant carriage, and told the driver to leave with all haste. I begged him not to stop until we reached the next town. I spent the entire trip trying to convince myself that what I saw was a mere illusion. That something did happen to Issac and it was actually only his body I saw, the feeding creature nothing more than a crow or buzzard. But it was to no avail. That didn’t explain the tall man or the words I heard emanate from the dying man’s mouth.

I was dropped off at this fine Inn and . . . WHAT’S THAT? A POUNDING AT MY DOOR. HE HAS FOUND ME! NYARLATHOTEP IS HERE! DID HE JUST SPEAK MY NAME? NO, THAT MUST BE MY IMAGINATION. HE CAN’T KNOW ME? HE CAN’T KNOW I’M HERE. WAIT! HE SPOKE IT AGAIN. “VIRGINIA! YOUR MEAL!” OH LORD! HE’S SERVING ME TO THOSE VILE MONSTERS. I AM THEIR NEXT MEAL!. FATHER IN HEAVEN! YOU ARE HOLY! DELIVER ME FROM THIS EVILLLL . . .  (The letter ends with the pen trailing off in a squiggle.)

P1 - Flourish: 2, 3 fail  Inkpot: 1, 2, 4 - inferior word  Penmanship: 2 fail
        Total Score: 0

P2 - Flourish: 4,4  fail  Inkpot: 3,4,5 - superior word  Penmanship: 3 fail
        Total Score: 1

P3 - Flourish: 1,3  fail  Inkpot: 2,2,6 - superior word  Penmanship: 2 fail
        Total Score: 1

P4 - Flourish: 3,4 (Using skill for +1 die) 1  fail  Inkpot: 2,2,6 - superior word  Penmanship: 6
        success
        Total Score: 2

P5 - Flourish: 1, 4  fail  Inkpot: 2,5,6- superior word  Penmanship: 4 fail, of course
        Total Score: 1

Total Letter Score: 5

0-7 points

You scream and the door opens. Instead of the tall man from the woods, you see the concerned desk clerk holding a plate of hot food in his hand.  He asks if you are okay and, embarrassed, you quickly explain that he just startled you. You grab the plate and shut the door.  No longer hungry, you set the plate down, seal the letter in an envelope, and put it in the drawer. Taking a breath, you tell yourself to calm down. The act of getting everything on paper has eased your mind a bit, and you feel silly at the thought of mistaking the desk clerk for the Devil. Still, you feel uneasy and unsettled, not knowing exactly what you witnessed in the woods. You step over the window and look out over the quiet street. Suddenly, your eye catches faint movement in the shadows across the way.  You focus all your attention in that direction, straining to see what is there. After a few moments, the shadows appear to separate, and, to your horror, you can make out the shape of a tall man dressed in coat and tails and a top hat.

Actual game text: You seal the envelope and slip it into a drawer, holding your head. Writing has made you feel better, but you can’t shake the feeling that something is drawing in. You look outside and see the shape of a tall man. Gain 1 story point.

Total Story Points: 7

CAMPAIGN CONCLUSION (Based on a score of 5-7 points)

You (Virginia Marlin) wake up in the bed of the hotel room. The last thing you remember from the previous evening was retreating to your bed and ducking under the covers. A childish act, you know, but all you could think to do was hide and hope the evil man would just leave.

Slowly you climb out of bed, wondering what time it is. Sunlight streams through the window and the angle makes you think it’s late morning or perhaps early afternoon. Now that it’s day and you’ve gotten some sleep, you seem to be thinking a bit more clearly. While you feel you must have seen something awful in the woods, was it really the grotesque scene you remember? Surely, people weren’t really being eaten by winged beasts. That’s impossible! Maybe an animal predator did get a hold of Issac, dragged him to the woods, and left his half-eaten body there to be found. That’s what you must have seen and the shock caused you to imagine everything else. After all, the novel Issac and you were collaborating on was a mystery. That must’ve been it.

Still, you want to get away from here as fast as possible, so you go about gathering your things and packing them in your case. As you are fastening the clasp, you notice a copy of the New England Journal open on the small writing desk.  Funny, you don’t recall it being there before. You step over and take a look at one of the stories on the open page. It tells about strange goings-on in the Sycamore Woods of Arkham. You close your eyes and shiver at the memories of what you imagined the previous night. When you open them again, the newspaper is gone!

Confusion courses through you and you waste no time grabbing your bag and heading downstairs. Your plan is to have the clerk hail you a carriage and leave immediately, presumably never to return. However, when you reach the lobby the room is empty. Stepping over to the counter, you ring the small bell that sits there and wait. After about five minutes no one shows up. Not only that, but you see no other patrons about either. This is certainly strange, but eventually, you resign yourself to the idea that you are going to have to seek out transportation yourself.

You leave the hotel and step into the street . . . the completely empty street. Where is everyone? This is highly unusual, especially for the middle of a bright, sunny day in what usually is a bustling town.  Then, without warning, the sky darkens and you look up. A grey, swirling cloud has formed overhead. Is it about to rain? You look closer and realize what you thought was a cloud was actually a flock of birds. Blackbirds. No. Not quite blackbirds. As they descend further down, instead of chirping or caws you hear shrieking and the flapping wings much heavier than a crow’s. To your horror, you realize what you are looking at are none other than the same grotesque creatures you saw in the woods.  However, instead of fat and bulbous, they were thin and skeletal. Of course they are, you think to yourself. They haven’t eaten yet.

The fall to your knees and the cloud envelopes you as the beasts begin to feast.

============
Rev. 12:9
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