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The King of Shreds and Patches Session Two Part 3 - 'Tween Scylla and Charybdis

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“Hey, everyone, I found some good reading for us,†he said as they walked.

 

“Shall we go somewhere private to read it?†Skern suggested.

 

“Yes,†Selwyn said.

 

“What do you mean by good?†Hawksworth said, agitated.

 

“Oh, very entertaining,†Selwyn said. “With that Britannia book─â€

 

“Entertaining?†Hawksworth said. “Entertaining?â€

 

“In English,†Selwyn said. “We’ve got the journal. I will read the journal. We have Monstres and Their Kynde.â€

 

They returned to London town and went to Godfrey’s house, a huge edifice filled with servants.

 

“Drink, please,†Hawksworth said as they sat down in a very fine sitting room.

 

Godfrey called for food and drink and the servants returned with ale, beer, and cold meat, cheese, and bread. One of them in particular, Baldrick, a dirty little man with a scraggly beard, stayed behind, obviously one of Godfrey’s more trusted servants.

 

“Roight sir,†he said. “I have a cunning plan to get the food here very quickly.â€

 

He ran away.

 

“Is Baldrick always this creepy?†Selwyn asked.

 

“Yes,†Godfrey said.

 

The food and drink were soon there.

 

“I found the religious pebbles,†Selwyn said, putting the stones on the table.

 

Godfrey put down the woman’s broach he’d found as well. Skern looked at it strangely.

 

“I recognize that broach,†he said.

 

It was a gift he’d given to Lucy Henry on her 21st birthday.

 

“Where did you get that!?!†he said.

 

“I found it by the pole in that strange room!†Godfrey said.

 

“Let me see it!†Skern said. “I gave this to Lucy!â€

 

That’s when it all came back him.

 

Some months before, in late August or early September, the Globe was presenting Jonson’s play Every Man in His Humour. Skern had asked his then lady-love Lucy Henry to accompany him to the performance. After the play, Skern met several friends who included in their company Joseph Barker, a poet whose request to have work printed was turned down by him with the excuse of a heavy workload.

 

The company adjourned to a nearby alehouse and talked long into the night about the play. Lucy paid scant attention to Barker, who left after perhaps an hour. Skern dismissed the incident, completely forgetting the meeting until just that moment.

 

Several weeks after taking Lucy to the play, she informed him their relationship was at an end. They had argued, he accusing her of taking a new suitor, an accusation she denied. They parted company until he received her message about Marijne.

 

“How could I have forgotten?†Skern said.

 

He quickly told them of his meeting with Joseph Barker some months before.

 

“I don’t remember him really saying anything to Lucy, so I don’t know how he could have this broach,†Skern said. “I do remember suspecting, when she broke my heart two weeks after that, that there was another man, though she denied it.â€

 

“We should talk to Lucy,†Selwyn said.

 

“Make sure you remind him that you’re friends when he confronts us about breaking into his house, will you?†Hawksworth said.

 

“I aim to kill this man!†Skern said. “He is most certainly not my friend!â€

 

Selwyn opened Barker’s diary and started to read it.

 

Hawksworth drank heavily. He hoped to blot out some of the terrible things he’d seen in the mirror that night.

 

Godfrey picked up Monstres and Their Kynde and skimmed it.

 

“Master Godfrey?†Baldrick said.

 

“Yes?†Godfrey said.

 

“Is that Italian on that piece o’ paper?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“I speak Italian!â€

 

“You do? You never told me, Baldrick.â€

 

“You don’t know many things about me, Master Godfrey.â€

 

“Oh God!†Hawksworth said. “Just put him down.â€

 

“Quiet you!†Baldrick said to the man.

 

“Tone, Baldrick!†Godfrey said. “Tone! Do I have to lock you in the basement again?â€

 

“I’m sorry sir. I have a cunning plan. I could translate that for you.â€

 

“Oh, would you?â€

 

“Isn’t that cunning?â€

 

“Yes. Yes Baldrick. Very good.â€

 

The dirty servant proceeded to write out the translation of what was on the paper.

 

“If my Lucy has been with Barker … she’s dead to me!†Skern said. “But I’m also very scared for her life.â€

 

“Well I would … it doesn’t matter,†Hawksworth said.

 

He had given up hope after what he’d seen in the terrible mirror.

 

Godfrey read the translation Baldrick made for him:

 


Genoa

 

Twelve months ago I received this chair as part of the cache of goods brought back
from Giovanni Gallacci’s last trade visit to the Far East. On that journey he travelled
deep into the heart of Cathay, further than reached before, to a place where he encountered
a terrible people known as the Tcho-Tcho. Upon encountering members of this tribe,
Giovanni attempted trade but they fell upon the Europeans, killing many. Giovanni gathered
the bulk of his remaining men and entered the village of the Tcho-Tcho, where he saw
deprivation on an unprecedented scale. Human sacrifice and torture of the basest nature
greeted him wherever he turned and filled with righteous rage he and his men slaughtered
the inhabitants.

 

When they had dispatched the tribesmen all that remained was one old man who called
himself Apan Tu, who begged that they not slaughter him. He requested in his own manner
to convert to the one god and to be brought to civilization. Gallacci brought home the man
and the great chair which had stood in the center of the village.

 

Apan Tu caused much sensation when he returned. Foolishly seeking the attention of my
peers and the social glory that would entail, I requested that Gallacci allow Apan Tu to enter
my service. Since I had funded Gallacci’s trade mission, my request was granted. Gallacci
also presented me with the chair. This was to prove my undoing.

 

For Apan Tu had not truly embraced the one faith and was indeed conducting his vile
rites in my own house, taking children from the street and sacrificing them to his foul god.
This I witnessed one night for I was restless and could not sleep. I ventured downstairs and
heard noises coming from the study where the chair rested. Peering around the door I saw
Apan Tu, kneeling before the throne, a look of undisguised glee on this face, while in the chair
sat a creature so horrible I can scarce bring myself to describe it. Tall, monstrously so, clothed
in multi-colored rags, a mask in one hand and its face … a mass of writhing tentacles, snaking
out, attaching themselves to the screaming visage of a child of no more than ten, sucking the life
from the frail waif.

 

Later, when my sanity was recovered, I confronted Apan Tu, who merely laughed at me
and said that what I had seen was merely the first he had summoned; later he would summon
another form from the depths of the sea itself. Filled with fury I took my rapier and plunged
it through his black heart. As he died I dragged from his diseased mind the way to stop this
unholy beast in its vilest form. It involved the use of three crystals of blue, green, and yellow,
which Apan Tu had brought with him. Apan died before I could extract the exact method of
employing these crystals. However, I retrieved these jewels from Tu’s belongings and now
I seal them into the compartment I have fashioned in the base of this foul throne.

 

To those who own this chair after I have perished, take heed. It will bring nothing but despair
and damnation. The chair cannot be destroyed, for I have tried, and if it falls into the wrong hands,
the crystals are, I believe, the only way of preventing the summoning of the beast Apan Tu would
have eventually called forth.

 

Lorenzo Castellano 9th March 1450

 


Selwyn, meanwhile, was reading Barker’s diary. It detailed the years 1601 and 1602. In it, Barker described traveling to Amsterdam to consult with the finest gem cutters, eventually coming into contact with Johannes van der Wyck, who, being of like mind, agreed to make the crystal needed for a terrible rite to further contact Hastur. Van der Wyck came to London to do the work financed by Barker. There they consulted what Barker only called “his library,†where he was aided by further information provided by the creatures he contacted via crystals.

 

He also detailed his meeting with Lucy Henry and immediately becoming intoxicated with her. He recognized her potential as a sacrifice at his ultimate summoning of the actual form of Hastur in the Pit of Charybdis. He courted her and gained her affection and trust, all the while plotting her kidnapping. He plotted her demise with fanatical devotion, consulting with the King regularly and even giving his energy to his master in exchange for arcane secrets.

 

The last few entries detailed the preparations for the rite, giving the location as beneath the White Tower of the Tower of London, the date as the morning of January 12th, and the time as one hour before the dawning of the day. It did not, however, show how the cultists, who apparently numbering at least 100, would get into the paranoiacally guarded palace and prison.

 

“So, yes, the journal entry is most interesting,†Selwyn said. “We will have to see Lucy at some point.â€

 

“What does it say!?!†Skern said. “Good God, man, tell me! Is she in danger!?!â€

 

“Yes,†Selwyn said calmly. “A little bit.â€

 

“Out with it, then!†Skern said.

 

“A little bit?†Hawksworth added.

 

“What day is it?†Selwyn asked. “Joseph plans on kidnapping her … and sacrificing her …â€

 

Skern let out a desperate cry.

 

“Selwyn, you said a little bit!†Hawksworth said.

 

“A little bit,†Selwyn said.

 

“Kidnapping and murder is a little bit!?!â€

 

“Apparently he’s got a hundred or so cultists … hopefully who don’t all know the … you know - grabby … of the heart.â€

 

“Grabby?â€

 

“I must go to her at once!†Skern said. “I will return.â€

 

“I would wait,†Selwyn said.

 

But it was too late. Skern leapt up and ran out of the room.

 

“Skern, wait!†Hawksworth called.

 

“What?†Skern called, stopping in the hallway.

 

“It’s four against a hundred,†Hawksworth said. “We don’t stand a chance, lads.â€

 

“I highly doubt he’d use a hundred men to kidnap one woman,†Selwyn said.

 

“You don’t know my Lucy,†Skern said.

 

“Though …†Selwyn said.

 

“How many do you think Barker’s going to use once he returns home and sees what we’ve done?†Hawksworth said.

 

“That we’ve knocked down a candle?†Selwyn said.

 

Skern walked back into the room.

 

“Listen,†he said. “Listen. We have the crystals. You learn the spell. I’m going to get Lucy and bring her back here.â€

 

“Learn the spell, I already have,†Selwyn said. “I just need slots to put these in!â€

 

“Figure it out!†Skern said.

 

He ran out of the room and out of Godfrey’s house.

 

“Good luck, Skern!†Hawksworth called drunkenly after him. “Go with love!â€

 

“We’ll see you tomorrow!†Selwyn called.

 

When he looked at Barker’s book, Cults of Roman Britain, he found the translation of what Dr. Whitewood had earlier translated for them. It was slightly different than the original Latin with a completely different passage replacing the last one in that book. It read:

 


The people themselves were intent on their god and we attacked, losing many but eventually
driving the creature back from whence is came and, when our terrible duty was done, we sealed
up the foul pit for ever more.

 


It made no mention of how the pit was sealed, exactly.

 

* * *

 

Skern ran across London town from Godfrey’s house in Cheapside to Lucy Henry’s house near Aldsgate. He pounded on the door when he arrived. Anna eventually opened it.

 

“Yes, Mr. Skern,†she said.

 

“It is urgent that I speak with Miss Lucy at once!†Skern said.

 

“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid Mistress Henry left the house ten minutes ago.â€

 

“Where has she gone? Who’s she gone with?â€

 

“She didn’t say where she was going or when she’d return. She simply put her cape on and left on foot. It was right after the message arrived.â€

 

“What message?â€

 

“She got a message and she read it and left.â€

 

“Well, where is it?â€

 

“It’s in the sitting room, sir.â€

 

He pushed roughly by the old woman and ran into the sitting room, looking around desperately. Anna followed him, squawking. He saw a small piece of paper in the fire and grabbed it out. Only a little bit of the edge burned.

 

It read:

 


Dearest Lucy,

 

I have returned from my travels. Oh, how I’ve missed you. I must see you for my heart
burns with an unbridled desire to kiss your sweet lips once more. Meet me in St. James’ Park
in an hour.

 

Joseph

 


“I knew it!†Skern cried. “That whore! I must save her!â€

 

“Oh my,†Anna said.

 

“Anna, take care,†he said.

 

He ran out of the house and across town once again. The streets were crowded and a steady drizzle and whipping winds hampered his progress. But he finally reached St. James Park, which was mostly deserted, quiet, and in the circumstances quite forbidding. A cold, sharp wind whistled in the trees and the thunderheads above made it very dark. The steady drizzle was thickening into a downpour, icy rain sluicing across the park driven by the swirling wind. He began calling for Lucy.

 

Once in the park, it didn’t take long to discover her. She was with a man, unrecognizable as he was standing in the shadows of a tree. They seemed to be in animated conversation and then they embraced tightly.

 

“Lucy!†he called again.

 

The two looked at him as he strode quickly towards them. Then the man grabbed her roughly. She struggled against him and he struck her savagely across the face, at which she collapsed into his arms. He dragged her back into the undergrowth as Skern rushed towards them, his sword drawn.

 

“Lucy!†he called again, running towards the undergrowth.

 

There was suddenly a burst of gunfire. A nearby tree splintered, a second bullet whizzed by Skern’s head, and a third bullet flew out into the darkness. Then three men stepped out of the shadows, dropping their pistols and drawing rapiers, standing between Skern and where he’d last seen Lucy. Skern rushed the men, drawing his blunderbuss as he got within a few feet.

 

* * *

 

Rain pounded on the windows of Godfrey’s house as the other three sat in the sitting room, two of them reading.

 

“You think Skern’s all right?†Hawksworth muttered.

 

“Ah, he’s probably fine,†Selwyn said, not looking up from his book.

 

* * *

 

Skern blasted away at the man on the left with the blunderbuss, striking him in the left foot. His leg flew out from under him and he fell into the mud with a shriek. The other two men rushed him, trying to run him through. The first completely missed with a wild swing. The second man stabbed Skern in the left arm and he fell with a cry.

 

* * *

 

“I guess him and Lucy are doing well,†Hawksworth said, looking at the large clock on the wall.

 

Skern had been gone for more than an hour by then.

 

“Well, he didn’t take any of the evidence with him,†Selwyn said. “So, I don’t know if she’ll believe him.â€

 

“What are we supposed to do now?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Clearly, we need to go─â€

 

“It doesn’t matter.â€

 

“─and protect Lucy. She is the key sacrifice for the big─â€

 

“Then why didn’t we go with Skern?â€

 

Selwyn looked at him blankly.

 

“Well, where did he go?†Hawksworth said. “Skern. Where did he go?â€

 

“Skern went after Lucy to defend her an extra hour before we got there,†Selwyn said. “But we’ve read everything, right Godfrey?â€

 

“Perhaps we should go find Lucy,†Godfrey said.

 

“Just take the books over to show Lucy,†Selwyn said. “She shouldn’t mind us protecting her while we’re just reading.â€

 

“Baldrick, sober Hawksworth up first,†Godfrey said.

 

“We should go now,†Hawksworth said. “Lead the way.â€

 

They gathered up all of the books and papers and went out into the pouring rain. They had an idea of where Lucy Henry’s house was and eventually found it. They knocked and the door was answered by an older housemaid.

 

“I’m looking for a Skern,†Selwyn told her. “And a Lucy.â€

 

“Well, Miss Henry went out earlier, as I told Mr. Skern, who rushed out of the house, screaming he was going to St. James Park to save her or some such nonsense,†the woman told them.

 

“I feel we should move briskly,†Selwyn said. “Thank you.â€

 

She closed the door.

 

“Don’t tell me we’re going to start running?†Hawksworth said.

 

“A brisk jog,†Selwyn said.

 

They made their way to St. James Park in the pouring rain and found Skern laying face down in the mud next to another man who was unconscious and bleeding from a terrible wound to his foot and ankle. Skern had been stabbed and was insensible. His spent blunderbuss lay in the mud next to him.

 

“Let’s question that man once he wakes up,†Selwyn said, pointing to the man they didn’t know.

 

“He hurt Skern!†Hawksworth said.

 

“We can kill him later!†Selwyn said. “Later!â€

 

They carried Skern and the other man to Dr. Whitewood’s near Newgate. He tended to Skern and was eventually able to wake the man up though he remained barely conscious.

 

“Where is Lucy?†Skern muttered.

 

They asked Dr. Whitewood to wake up the other man, binding him to the bed first. He tied down the brigand but was unable to wake him up with smelling salts, light slaps, or cold water in his face. Hawksworth tried to wake the man as well without luck.

 

“Where’s Lucy?†Hawksworth asked Skern.

 

“Lucy?†Skern said. “Lucy.â€

 

“Yes, Lucy. Where is she?â€

 

“Joseph … Barker!â€

 

“Took her?â€

 

“Yes! Yes! Whore! Save her!â€

 

“Where did they go?â€

 

Skern didn’t know. He was obviously not completely in his right mind.

 

“Was there anything in the note about where he was going to perform the sacrifice?†Hawksworth asked the others.

 

“Well, there was that chart in the laboratory that marked the place in the city,†Godfrey said.

 

“The tower!†Skern cried out.

 

“Told me the tower of London,†Godfrey went on. “Perhaps there.â€

 

“Why would you do it in the Tower of London?†Hawksworth asked. “Why wouldn’t you do it in the hole in the basement?â€

 

“I don’t know.â€

 

“That’s where I’d do it.â€

 

“Maybe he needs more space,†Skern cried out.

 

“The Tower of London,†Selwyn said. “But I don’t know how he’s going to get past all of the guards.â€

 

“I wonder how he’s going to do that,†Hawksworth muttered drunkenly. “Maybe he’d need a hundred men?â€

 

“I think it’s something magical, probably,†Selwyn said.

 

They discussed telling the constables but realized how mad it would all sound.

 

“Well, I don’t know how we could stop it,†Hawksworth said. “I say we pack our bags tonight, carry Skern out of here, and … I don’t know … just get out of here?â€

 

“Leave the Queen to her fate?†Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Where’s your patriotism?†Selwyn said.

 

“Oh, that left me long ago,†Hawksworth said.

 

Dr. Whitewood pointed out if there were a hundred men meeting for something, surely they should be able to follow some of them. Selwyn mentioned waking the unconscious thug and they slapped his face and shook him but were unable to wake him from his stupor. Dr. Whitewood said he would continue to try to awaken the man.

 

“We have until the 12th,†Selwyn said.

 

“But we are just an actor, a banker, and a locksmith,†Hawksworth pointed out. “What chance to we have?â€

 

“You must go,†Skern called.

 

“We have spirit,†Selwyn said.

 

“You must save Lucy,†Skern called.

 

“And the stabbed man is telling us we must go,†Hawksworth said.

 

“I mean, clearly …†Selwyn said.

 

“Joseph must be stopped,†Skern called.

 

“Clearly, we’re all going to die,†Hawksworth said.

 

Dr. Whitewood wrote a note and called a servant to deliver it, sending the young boy off.

 

Selwyn suggested learning the spell Van der Wyck had used on Shakespeare. However, upon examining it, it proved impossible to quickly learn. Hawksworth suggested learning the spell to stop Hastur but Selwyn said he already knew it. Hawksworth looked over the phrase and memorized it as well. Selwyn reminded him blood was necessary.

 

Another man appeared at Dr. Whitewood’s house a short while later. He proved to be a physician of Dr. Whitewood’s acquaintance, whom Dr. Whitewood had sent for to see Skern. He patched the young man up and Skern was able to out of bed. The doctor also tried to awaken the assaulter but the man simply wouldn’t come to.

 

They discussed the spell to stop Hastur.

 

“If I can learn a play, I can learn a chant,†Hawksworth said.

 

Skern also memorized the words.

 

“Godfrey, did you look this over as well?†he asked.

 

“Not yet, but I should,†the banker said.

 

He also learned the phrase and how to cast the spell. Skern asked the order and Selwyn told him yellow was last. He was not exactly sure of the order of the other two stones.

 

They decided to get as much rest as they could in the next day or so. Selwyn suggested they get more pistols and blunderbusses. There was some talk about how to find the place where they were going to conduct the ritual and Selwyn suggested they watch the tower near the time of the ritual and follow anyone in who might be entering. The Thames came almost right up to the tower and they realized there might be a way into the place through the traitor’s gate. He also mentioned getting a boat and watching for anyone entering.

 

“We should tell the authorities that someone plans on attacking the tower,†Selwyn said. “Of course, we’re doing this anonymously. Around the morning of the 12th.â€

 

“I think that’s a bad idea,†Hawksworth said.

 

“But if there’s heavy guards when they hear gunfire, not if, people can arrive to help.â€

 

“There’ll be too much confusion.â€

 

“Won’t it be hard for us to get in then?†Skern said.

 

“But there’s a hundred,†Selwyn said.

 

“But it makes it hard for us to get in,†Hawksworth said.

 

“True,†Selwyn said.

 

“If they sneak by, we can’t stop them,†Hawksworth said.

 

“Well, it’s not longer a hundred cultists, it’s only 99,†Selwyn said. “That’s just, what? Thirty-three each?â€

 

* * *

 

Dr. Whitewood managed to revive the man who had attacked Skern in St. James Park but he proved to merely be a thug hired by Barker to stop anyone who came after him.

 

“Really?†Selwyn said to the man, who was still tied down in the bed. “You, sir, are useless.â€

 

He beat the man into unconsciousness.

 

Dr Whitewood had him sent to jail for the attack in St. James Park after removing the terribly injured foot.

 

* * *

 

Godfrey had continued to have terrible dreams in the evenings, nightmares about the King in Yellow, Carcosa, Lake Hali, and something terrible that was, inevitably, coming to get him. He could feel himself coming slowly unwound by the terrible images. He didn’t know how long he’d be able to bear it.

 

* * *

 

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 12, 1603, they hired a small skiff in order to observe the Tower as closely as possible. However, when they tried to board, Hawksworth proved reticent.

 

“The bridge,†he muttered, remembering the horrible things he had seen in the mirror. “Where’s the bridge?â€

 

They realized the man was deathly afraid of the Thames, something they had not noticed before. Selwyn tried to convince him to cover his face and eyes with his cloak.

 

“If I can handle those stairs, you can handle this body of water!†Godfrey told him. “You can do this.â€

 

“Stairs don’t kill!†Hawksworth said.

 

“Yes, they do,†Godfrey said. “If you fall down them, they do.â€

 

“Yes, they do,†Hawksworth said.

 

They covered his face and tried to calm him down. He remained nervous but was willing to be put into the boat.

 

“The water is perfectly crystal clear,†Selwyn lied. “There are not even fish.â€

 

“This is the Thames,†Godfrey said. “This is not crystal clear.â€

 

“He can’t see,†Selwyn hissed at him.

 

They rowed onto the Thames, Hawksworth almost insensate in the bottom of the boat. A strange, almost luminous fog covered the river and it was some time before Selwyn and Skern saw several men in robes approaching the Traitor’s Gate by the river as well. They rowed quietly after the men and saw them manipulate an unlit flambeaux at the base of the gate where the swelling Thames met it. Once the men were gone, they rowed to the spot.

 

The entrance was half submerged in water from the river, which was flowing quite high due to the recent heavy rains and snow. It looked like the water was shallow near the door.

 

“I’ve got some bad news, hawk’s egg,†Skern said. “You’re going to have to go through the water.â€

 

“You’re going to have to be a little bit wet,†Selwyn said.

 

“No,†Hawksworth said.

 

“You have a problem with wet?â€

 

“No.â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“No.â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“No. What’s the point of getting in a boat if you have to get out of the boat into the water?â€

 

“Don’t worry. It’s not deep. It’s only a foot or so. Just step out right now. The boat can’t physically go further.â€

 

“We’re on land,†Skern said.

 

“There’s just a little bit of water on the floor,†Godfrey lied.

 

Hawksworth climbed out and splashed into the water. He let out a shout as Skern tried to calm him. Hawksworth catapulted himself forward, splashing through the water until he crashed into a stone wall. They grabbed the man and took him through the secret door.

 

There was water inside though, too.

 

“Where is the land?†Hawksworth said.

 

Selwyn had lit his tiny hooded lantern. They could hear nearby splashes and see rats in the water. Something made the water ripple and they could sometimes feel things moving against their boots.

 

They finally reached a steel door set above the waterline in the far end of the half-sunken corridor. The door proved secure and they saw no keyhole, though they did see a circular indentation about four inches across set into it.

 

“I need your stone, Hawksworth,†Selwyn said.

 

He got the strange stone they’d found on Van der Wyck. When Selwyn fit it into the recess, a soft “snick†was heard. They easily pushed the door open after that. It led to a dry tunnel that plunged down steps at an acute angle until it reached first a level tunnel some 150 feet below ground and then a more open antechamber beyond. There was an ancient wooden door on one wall and they could hear the chanting of many voices behind it.

 

Once they were beyond the water, they had unblinded Hawksworth. He seemed quite happy there was no water there.

 

They doused the light and cracked the door, peeking into the room beyond. The place was something like an amphitheater, semi-circular and built of stone flags with tiers for viewing and lit by far too few candles, leaving a great deal of the place shrouded in shadow. The “stage†of said amphitheater was dominated by a large pool of black water, constantly frothing and churning. In front of the pool were three large stone altars. On the ground near the pool, set into a hollow in the floor, was a large sulfurous-yellow crystal that pulsed regularly with a throbbing glow. It was connected to the three altars by narrow channels which ran along the floor and up the front of them.

 

“How the hell did they build this?†Selwyn hissed.

 

He recognized the yellow stone as the same design of the template he’d found in Van der Wyck’s shop. Godfrey, Skern, and Hawksworth, all saw that on the front of each altar was a small hole which interrupted each of the channels at a certain point. They guessed they were the holes for the colored stones.

 

Lying on top of the central altar was the unconscious form of Lucy Henry. An unknown man was prostrate on the right and an unknown woman on the left. Two robed and masked figures stood by the left and right altars. They were dressed in ragged yellow hooded robes and plain white face masks with just eye, nose, and mouth holes.

 

“She’s doing what she’s good at,†Hawksworth muttered to Skern. “Laying down like the whore she is.â€

 

A large group of assembled cultists stood on the tiers and began a slow chant to Hastur as one of the two masked priests picked up a long, spike-like stiletto from the table. As the chant built to a crescendo, the left woman awoke. The priest plunged the dagger deep into her chest, piercing her heart. She merely moaned and a jet of blood squirted up, splashing over the pristine white impassive surface of the priest’s mask.

 

As soon as the dagger struck and the blood from the victim drained down the channel, bathing the yellow crystal, the pool began to churn and boil with even greater ferocity and a cycling whirlpool started to take shape. A milky-colored mist began to float out across the amphitheater from the pool and the gathered cultists started chanting again, this time in a higher key and more stridently. Now the priest on the right plunged his dagger into the victim in front of him. As the man died and the blood spilled down to the crystal, the maelstrom gathered speed and spread out, allowing them to almost see what was appearing in the pool. Tentacles could barely be seen.

 

The chanting ceased save for a low humming and the two priests met at the central altar, raising the dripping daggers above the body of Lucy Henry. The chanters suddenly barked a single, loud, unintelligible word and the daggers, having reached their zenith, began to fall!

 

Skern burst into the room and ran forward, opening fire with his blunderbuss. The blast struck the nearer of two priests in the right leg and the man screamed and fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. His mask flew off but they didn’t recognize him. The blood poured down the channel to the terrible yellow gem and the mist abruptly disappeared. Hawksworth, sword in hand, ran into the room and away from the water, heading for the corner near the tiers. Godfrey ran into the room to the other corner, nearer the pool. Selwyn fired at the remaining priest with his blunderbuss but missed completely. He dropped the firearm.

 

The gun smoke was thick all around them.

 

The other priest backed away from the altar and the pool as several tentacles came out of the terrible maelstrom and reached into the room, over some of their heads. The tentacles grabbed blindly, some of them snatching up cultists and crushing them to death, others merely touching the men, who dropped dead. A few seized men from the tiers and dragged them screaming into the maelstrom, never to be seen again.

 

“We’ve got to get those stones over here!†Skern cried out.

 

He ran to Lucy on the altar. She appeared to be unconscious and lay unmoving. Hawksworth looked around in terror and then ran to Selwyn.

 

“How do we make it stop!?!†he cried. “How do we make it stop!?! What do we do!?! What do we do!?!â€

 

Godfrey ran around the far side of the terrible pool towards the other priest, pistol in hand, faster than they thought the fat man possible.

 

“I’m fixing it!†Selwyn cried.

 

He ran to the place between the three altars where he could reach all three of them. More cultists were snatched up by the tentacles while others fled towards the door. A few simply cowed in the corner or acted very strangely. The priest, who saw Godfrey coming, pulled his robes aside and drew a sword.

 

“Selwyn, pass me a stone!†Skern called, moving towards the other man.

 

Hawksworth fled the room.

 

Selwyn knelt between the altar and cut his hand with his axe. Then he took the stones out of his sack and put them into the blood.

 

“Get the cultist with the sword!†he screamed.

 

The cultist with the sword removed his mask and Skern recognized the man.

 

“Barker!†he cried.

 

“Have at you, you frail piece of shite!†the evil man said to him.

 

He took a fencing stance and then thrust his blade at the man. Skern parried the blow and the two had at it. Skern returned the blow and Barker parried that thrust as well. Meanwhile, Godfrey moved off to the right, closing with Barker and shooting the man in the left leg with his pistol.

 

* * *

 

In the antechamber, Hawksworth stopped and turned. Two cultists ran out of the door behind him, fleeing for their lives. The two men were making to run by him but he stabbed at one of them, tearing at his robes. The man ran past him with a gibbering moan. The other man slowed and drew a dagger.

 

“You wanna go?†he said.

 

He tried to stab the young actor but missed him completely.

 

* * *

 

Selwyn thought on the stones a moment, looking around for any indication of where they might go. He noticed that each hole where he assumed the stones were to go was carved as a representation of a howling face. He remembered the stones had been arranged in the secret compartment with blue on the left, yellow in the middle, and green on the right. He knew yellow was placed last so he chose to place the blue stone on the left first and then the green stone on the right. He began speaking the chant.

 

Barker said some terrible word that didn’t seem possible with the human vocal chords. He held up his left hand. Nothing seemed to happen, so Skern swung wildly at the man, who laughed in his face.

 

“We’re trying to help you, Joseph!†Skern yelled.

 

* * *

 

“Water behind me, water in front of me,†Hawksworth said, swinging wildly at the horrible little man and missing.

 

The other man tried to stab him again without hitting him.

 

* * *

 

Godfrey dropped his wheellock pistol and drew the second from his belt. He shot Barker in a flash of fire and smoke as the man just grinned at him. There was a strange sound as the bullet actually seemed to ricochet off the man’s very skin! Barker laughed again.

 

Selwyn, meanwhile, put the last stone in and said the magical phrase. He put everything into it that he could and suddenly felt woozy. As his vision filled with redness, he realized he didn’t have the power to do it, but knew a man whose mind seemed, except for most recently when he seemed terrified of water, solid. He realized he needed that man.

 

“Hawksworth!†he cried out as he fell unconscious. “Do the gems!â€

 

Barker thrust at Skern again but the man blocked the blade with his own. Though the blow was so powerful it actually hurt Skern’s wrist, he laughed defiantly. He thrust at Barker again but the man desperately managed to parry the blow.

 

* * *

 

“Tentacle behind you!†Hawksworth cried.

 

“What!?!†the cultist cried, spinning around.

 

Hawksworth ran by the man.

 

“How dare you lie to me!†the cultist said as he gave chase.

 

* * *

 

Hawksworth ran back into the terrible chamber. He saw the others fighting against whom he assumed was Barker and spotted Selwyn lying, dead or unconscious, between the three altars. Cultists were still being flung about or dragged into the terrible maelstrom.

 

Godfrey rushed Barker, spinning his pistol around and using it as a club. He swung wildly, striking him ineffectually on the arm.

 

“Get away from me you obnoxiously fat man!†Barker snapped at him. “I’ll murder you in a moment. Hold still.â€

 

He swung at Skern but the man parried yet another blow and then made a riposte that Barker had to parry.

 

“I’ve been studying this all my life, you hulking sod,†Barker said.

 

The cultist ran into the room after Hawksworth but stopped and ran away with a cry. Hawksworth ran to Selwyn and saw a lot of blood while Godfrey tried to beat on Barker with his pistol.

 

“Wait your turn!†Barker yelled at the man.

 

He thrust at Skern but the man parried the blow with ease. Skern stabbed at the man once again, ineffectually. Barker laughed in his face again.

 

“Oh dear,†he said. “Skern, isn’t it?â€

 

Hawksworth knelt between the altars. He cut his hand and removed all three of the stones, making sure he got blood on all of them. He shoved the blue one back into the left slot, guessing order mattered. He remembered the person on the left had been killed first and hoped that was the order the stones were to be put in.

 

Godfrey struck Barker but the blow just bounced off him. The man growled and lowered his arm.

 

“Fine,†he said. “I’ll kill you next.â€

 

Barker reared back and thrust at Godfrey’s chest but Skern leapt to the side and parried the blow with his own sword. In a fit of terror, Godfrey voided his bowels. Then Skern tried to stab Barker again but the man managed to parry the blow.

 

“What fools you mortals be!†the madman cried.

 

Hawksworth shoved the green stone into the slot in the right altar and then the yellow one into the center altar, saying the magical words. The crystals seemed to melt into position, fusing with the stone of the faces and interrupting the flow of sacrificial blood. There was an earth-shattering howl and the pool churned as the tentacles were sucked into the now-reversed maelstrom, some still clutching dead or shrieking cultists. The large yellow crystal ceased to pulse and the pool suddenly appeared to freeze in mid-motion, becoming a solid swirling shape … sealed.

 

The cultists, those that remained, bayed for blood.

 

Godfrey circled behind Barker and struck him an ineffectual blow to the back with his backwards turned pistol. Barker pivoted towards him.

 

“You filthy, fat, sweaty old man!†he screamed.

 

He thrust at Godfrey and Skern again flung his own sword into the way but was unable to parry the blow. Barker stabbed Godfrey in the left hand and drew blood. Skern stabbed at Barker again but the man parried the blow once more.

 

“You fools!†Barker cried. “You’ve ruined everything! You meddling fools!â€

 

Hawksworth picked up the blunderbuss near Selwyn and walked towards Barker with the weapon. He got as close as he thought he could and then shoved the gun at Skern.

 

“Skern!†he said. “Use this bloody thing!â€

 

Skern grabbed the blunderbuss with his left hand. Barker slipped behind Godfrey and tried to grab the man, but Godfrey ducked out of the way with an agility that seemed to belie his great weight.

 

“Help me, you fools!†Barker shouted at the cultists.

 

“Duck!†Skern yelled, dropping his sword and slipping the blunderbuss into his right hand.

 

Godfrey dropped to the floor.

 

“Nooo!†Barker cried.

 

Skern fired but the horrible man leapt to one side and the blast missed him completely. Hawksworth ran back to Selwyn and threw him over his shoulder.

 

“Stop them, you fools!†Barker yelled.

 

He fled.

 

Only four cultists were left. The rest had fled, been taken by Hastur, or gone mad. One man sat in a corner, drooling. The four that came to Barker’s aid drew knives and moved towards Skern, who picked up his rapier. Hawksworth, carrying Selwyn, started to make his way over the horrible water that seemed to have turned to stone. It was uneven and rough and he moved slowly as he crossed it.

 

“Run!†he yelled.

 

Godfrey stood up and flung his knife at Barker but the blade flew off into the room. Two of the cultists rushed Skern and tried to stab him.

 

“Take Lucy!†Skern yelled. “Take Lucy!â€

 

Skern parried the first blow and the second struck Skern with his blade, but it struck a piece of leather on the man’s clothing and fell out of his hands. The cultist struggled to recover the dagger. Skern stabbed the other man in the left hand, the one that was obviously his primary hand. With a cry, the cultist dropped his knife.

 

Hawksworth was making his way across the terrible frozen stone water even as Godfrey picked up Lucy and started to make his way to the exit. The yellow gem suddenly exploded, shattering into fragments.

 

Barker fled out the door.

 

The cultist who had dropped his knife picked it back up as the injured man fled. Another cultist attacked Skern as well and one of them managed to stab the man in the right shoulder. He fell back with a cry. The man laughed maniacally and Hawksworth looked back as Skern stumbled back and onto the altar, screaming one last profanity.

 

“He’s dead!†the cultist cried. “I’ve killed him!â€

 

Godfrey headed across the stone water towards the exit. Hawksworth put Selwyn down on the strange floor and looked back to see Skern’s prone form.

 

“Godfrey, we have to save Skern!†he cried out.

 

The three cultists with daggers saw Hawksworth and Godfrey. Hawksworth unsheathed his rapier.

 

“Are you ready, Godfrey?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Uh …†Godfrey said.

 

Hawksworth ran to the left altar, hoping to use it as partial cover. Godfrey put Lucy down and went to Hawksworth. The two stood back to back. There was a terrible stench.

 

“What’s that smell?†Hawksworth said.

 

“Nothing!†Godfrey said. “Nothing! It’s the corpses!â€

 

“Come brothers!†one of the cultists said. “We’ll make them all pay!â€

 

One of the men ran around either side of the altar while the third tried to climb up onto the thing. Godfrey stabbed ineffectually at the man who faced him while Hawksworth tried to stab the man who had climbed up onto the altar but missed. Two of the men tried to attack Hawksworth, one of them slashing the man in the left arm. The man who fought Godfrey wasn’t able to hurt him. The men exchanged another set of blows without anyone being hurt.

 

Godfrey stabbed the man he faced in the crotch. The man yelled out a curse and seemed angry.

 

“You son of a bitch!†he cried. “You tried to stab me in the balls!â€

 

He slashed Godfrey in the arm. Hawksworth continued to exchange ineffectual blows with the other two men. They were not any more effective against him. Godfrey and his opponent didn’t do much better but then one of the men stabbed Hawksworth in the shoulder. Godfrey stabbed the man he faced in the chest and he went down with a cry. The man on the altar leapt down and fled while the last man went for Hawksworth’s eyes with his dagger but missed. Hawksworth swung again at the man but missed and then Godfrey turned on the man.

 

“Unless you start running, you’re going to end up like your friend here!†the fat banker yelled.

 

That seemed to unnerve the last cultist.

 

“What’s that smell?†the man cried. “Oh my God!â€

 

The last cultist fled the terrible chamber.

 

“Godfrey, we did it!†Hawksworth said.

 

He sniffed at the air. There was a foul stench.

 

“Did that man you killed shite himself?†he asked.

 

“Yes,†Godfrey said. “Yes, he did. And only him.â€

 

“Did you get some on you? Did you fall in the shite?â€

 

“Yes, just a little bit. Sat down in it. It was horrible.â€

 

Godfrey and Hawksworth got the Skern, Selwyn, and Lucy up the steep steps and back out to the boat, leaving the spent pistols and blunderbusses behind. They rowed away from the terrible place.

 

“I think I’d usually be scared of this, but I just don’t care anymore,†Hawksworth said.

 

They managed to get hold of a cart from a local in London and took the three unconscious forms to Dr. Whitewood’s house. He took care of them as best he could. Skern was woken though he was unable to wake Selwyn, who woke on his own within another hour. He also saw to Hawksworth’s and Godfrey’s wounds and woke Lucy Henry. She was eternally grateful for being rescued, especially to Octavian Skern. She pledged her undying love for the man.

 

“Madam, I am a gentleman,†he replied. “And thus I saved your life. But I am not a fool.â€

 

“I was led astray!†she said.

 

“Speak to me now more.â€

 

“I was led astray by him! Please, Octavian, please! Love of my life! You saved me from this terrible man!â€

 

Skern spurned her.

 

* * *

 

Octavian Skern continued his work at Fletcher’s Print House. Though he told Lucy Henry if she was ever in need of his help and ever felt her life threatened, he would be there, he ignored her letters and messages, spurning her even as she had spurned him.

 

* * *

 

Reginald Selwyn had collected all of the books and papers they found in pursuit of the investigation and began trying to steal ideas from playwrights and other writers in order to finish the play The King in Yellowe. With the money he’d stolen from Van der Wyck’s store and the dead man himself, he lived a little more comfortably for some time. He survived the plague that year and even studied the terrible spell called Grasp of Cthulhu from Barker’s Under the Yellow Sign. It took him about six months but he finally thought he understood and spell and would be able to cast it.

 

* * *

 

Vincent Hawksworth gave up his job as censor and Queen’s Man and returned to the Globe Theater to continue his acting career. More inspired by the strange things he saw, he found himself an even better actor, even though the Globe closed that summer for almost a year due to the terrible outbreak of the plague in London and, indeed, across England.

 

He wrote whenever he wasn’t acting. In his writing, he tried to depict more accurately what real fighting looked like: “It smelled of shite and there was a lot of missing.†He was advised by Kent and other playwrights that the rabble didn’t want to see that kind of stage combat.

 

* * *

 

Peter Godfrey spent the next several nights plagued by terrible, insidious nightmares. Each night they became more intense and real and he saw more and more of lost Carcosa, Lake Hali, the King in Yellow, and even more than he ever wanted to see of dread Hastur. However, though each night left him more shaken and less sound, he was finally free of the terrible haunting dreams less than a week later, his reason and sanity intact.

 

He went to the country after that, spending the summer and the fall away from plague-filled London. He returned to the bank and continued his money-lending career the following winter.

 

One day, cleaning out a drawer, he came across Marlowe’s diary, which he had not returned after reading some months before. He took it directly to London Bridge and chucked it into the Thames.


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