The train pulls into the Steeplin Valley station at approximately 12:30am. As they walk off the train, Ivy Morgan, Jonas, and Ray are surprised to find Mr. Booth waiting for them. He states that he was able to make it to the road, where an agent of Mr. DuPont was following the train in case there was trouble. He cautions the investigators that they’re still being followed and that they need to leave immediately. Jonas notices something odd in the way that Mr. Booth is moving, but chalks it up to lingering injuries sustained from being thrown from the train. Ivy, suspicious as always, is not so sure.
The parking lot is dark and empty – a black Buick is the only car in sight. Booth claims that the driver went on foot to the estate to warn Mr. DuPont. He also states that he’s too sore to drive, and sits in the back seat with Ray. Jonas and Ivy walk to the back of the car to load their gear.
In the back seat, Mr. Booth turns to Ray and begins chanting in a language Ray doesn’t understand. As Booth’s hand reaches for Ray’s face, Ray pulls his .45 from his shoulder holster and shoots Booth in the neck. Booth pulls a dagger from inside his coat and slashes Ray across the chest. Ray opens the door and falls from the car, while Jonas aims his rifle through the rear window and fires. Booth’s head explodes, spraying the interior of the vehicle in a viscous green ichor.
Ivy lifts Ray into the car while Jonas pulls the decapitated body from the back seat and drags it to the train tracks. As lights turn on in the houses surrounding the station, the investigators get in the car and flee the scene. They drive up the main street towards the DuPont estate, stopping a few miles up the road to attend to Ray’s wound and discuss their encounter with Mr. Booth. As they contemplate their next move, Jonas notices headlights approaching from the direction of the train station.
Ivy and Jonas, each supporting the injured Ray, grab the statue and head to the tree line and hide behind some bushes. A police car pulls up to the abandoned Buick and someone steps out to survey the scene. The figure approaches the tree lines and speaks in an authoritative tone.
“This is your last chance. Give me the statue and no one gets hurt.”
It’s Deputy Grietski. He paces back and forth, repeating himself a few times, before returning to his vehicle. After a few minutes, he starts the car, turns around, and drives back towards the station. The investigators remain in the tree line until the deputy’s car is out of sight, then return to the vehicle and make their way cautiously towards the DuPont estate.
The estate is consumed in darkness. The front entrance is discernible only from the glare of the Buick’s headlamps. As the investigators make their way up the front stairs, Jonas makes out a humanoid figure looking out from one of the upper windows. The front door stands ajar.
They enter cautiously and stumble around looking for a lamp or light switch. Instead, they find a candle on a side table that is able to provide enough light to explore the gigantic front hall. As they approach an ornate staircase, Ray spots muddy footprints heading upstairs. The investigators climb to the second floor, weapons drawn. Jonas hears something shuffle outside of his field of vision. Not sure of what direction the sound came from, they follow the footprints from room to room, noticing that dressers, armoires, and closets appear to have been rifled through.
As they make their way to east wing, they enter a room and behold a grotesque humanoid figure. It stands with its back to the investigators, making a vain attempt to escape through the window. As the light of the candle hits its back, the creature turns to face the group. Its visage is too much for Ray, and he flees the room. Jonas lifts the rifle and shoots – the creature collapses.
Ivy and Jonas meet Ray, who has seemingly gotten over his shock, out in the hall and make their way back downstairs. Following another set of footprints, they walk to a large, closed door at the back of the main hall. As he attempts to open the door, Jonas finds that the way is blocked. Wrenching the door inward with all his might, he is able to push the obstruction out of the way and enter the room.
It is immediately apparent what the obstruction is; a putrid skeletal corpse is slumped in the doorway. A large ragged hole has been blasted in its chest blackening what little flesh is left around the wound. The rest of the corpse is an unnatural greenish color, its long fingers twisted as if suffering from some sort of hellish arthritis. It is naked – its withered genitals exposed.
Ray, already reeling from the encounter upstairs, collapses to the floor, comatose. After taking a moment to check that their comrade is still breathing, Jonas and Ivy enter the study – there is a large, mahogany desk in the room’s center. Before it lays a charred corpse – A faint stream of smoke still slowly drifts from its incinerated remains, although there is no sign as to what has inflicted the assault. Walking around the desk, they find the barely conscious Henry DuPont. He is almost in an as bad a state as the two corpses, his left arm, from the elbow down, is missing and is bleeding heavily. He also has a cut scalp and a serious deep stab wound in his stomach.
From behind them, Jonas and Ivy hear something stirring. Turning around, they see Ray – he gives them a blank stare, looks around the room, and says, “Where am I? What’s going on? Who are you?”
From the floor, Henry DuPont laughs and gurgles blood.
“Excellent…you made it.” he says weakly. “Do you have the statue?”
Ivy kneels down to examine DuPont – it is clear that his wounds are severe, and that his condition is terminal. She does her best to bind his wounds and make him comfortable. Answering in the affirmative, Ivy pulls the statue out of the bag and shows it to DuPont. He lets out a long sigh.
“Thank god – at first light you must take it and this manuscript (he lifts a bloody hand and points to the papers on the desk) and get out of Steeplin County…you are not safe here.”
Nonplussed, Ivy and Jonas ask DuPont what is so important about the statue.
“Within the statue,” DuPont breaths, “is the Stone of Xnalku – an item that can be used to evoke many different rites…The most sinister ritual will unleash a horrifying creature from its age old prison…The demon, Xnaaki, has been trapped in the Steeplin Lake for a millennium; banished by another of his kind an eon ago… Xnaaki is weak now but if ever the stone and the beast are re-united…”
He trails off into unconsciousness.
Jonas looks at the papers on the desk – they seem to be written in English, as well as another language he is not familiar with. Ivy is equally unsuccessful in determining the second language. It is clear, however, that what they can read is mostly gibberish – obviously written by some lunatic.
Jonas, suddenly remembering that they might be followed, heads outside to check if the coast is clear. Meanwhile, Ivy attends briefly to Ray (whom she helps over to the couch, where he immediately passes out) and then looks about the room. She notices a leather-bound journal on the desk and opens in. Inside is an account of the DuPont family, dating back to the mid-1700’s. There are also scattered entries for specific dates. An entry for June 20th is found at the back of the book.
Booth and I have arrived in Arkham under the cover of darkness. I procured a local residence when I learned about the auction, and with luck will find a number of trust-worthy souls to acquire the statue.
If my information is accurate, $3,000 should be enough to ensure that my agents will have the winning bid.
What happens after that is a matter for fate to decide…
Jonas returns, and Ivy places the journal into the duffel-bag, along with the statue and manuscript. Gurgling blood and labored breathing signal that DuPont has regained consciousness.
“You should be safe in the house tonight…the cult of Xnaaki will be performing rituals all night…they will not know of their failure to procure the statue until morning…Take my car…leave Steeplin County…”
Coughing blood onto Jonas, DuPont continues.
“There are only a handful of madmen crazy enough to worship Xnaaki…the head priest is the Sheriff of this very town…he has little in the way of followers…but with that damned stone…Xnaaki will invade the minds of all but the strongest…”
“I tried to procure the stone to destroy it myself, but I have failed…a ritual is among the pages of the manuscript…destroying the stone is the only way to secure Xnaaki in its prison…to fail is to condemn the world…”
DuPont falls back into unconsciousness.
Ivy looks around the room and notices a map of Steeplin County in a frame above the mantelpiece. Breaking the glass, she rolls up the map and puts it in the duffel-bag. Over the next three hours, Jonas and Ivy take turns napping while the other stands guard.
DuPont’s labored breathing continues until, as five o’clock approaches, he lets out one final, shuddering breath and dies. Moving to the body, Ivy goes through his pocket and finds a roll of twenty dollar bills and a set of keys. She wakes up Jonas and tells him that DuPont has died. Jonas suggests that they take DuPont’s car and the black Buick, and split up the statue and manuscript between the two automobiles. Once they reach Newburyport, they’ll ditch the cars and catch a train to Arkham.
With their plan in place, Ivy and Jonas wake up Ray to let him know what has happened. Ray, who appears unsure of his surroundings, looks at both of them and says, “I’m sorry, you must have me confused with someone else – my name is David Malgresh.”
Ray seems to regard himself as David Malgresh, a botanist from Chicago who is headed east for a symposium on sustainable food sources in New York. Whether joking or not, Ray’s condition is enough to shock and concern both Ivy and Jonas. With time being a factor, however, neither seems too keen on taking a lot of time discuss the matter further, and they humor Ray enough to convince him to go with them.
The investigators make a brief stop in the kitchen to stock up on some food for the drive, and head out of the house to the garage, where DuPont’s Rolls Royce Phantom stands ready for departure. Driving down the main road, they pass the train station and head out of town. Unfamiliar with the surrounding country, Jonas uses the train tracks as a landmark to guide both cars to Newburyport.
Driving roughly a mile past the town of Newburyport, Jonas finds a small lake off the main road. They eat a hasty lunch, empty their belongings from the vehicles, and send them into the water. Picking up their belongings, they walk back towards Newburyport, where they purchase tickets for the next train to Arkham.
The train pulls into Arkham in the early afternoon. The investigators immediately head to the Phillip’s 66 station where Ivy left her Daimler. From there, they travel on foot to Orne Library, where Jonas believes that Dr. Armitage can help them decipher the manuscript. After a brief wait at the front desk, Dr. Armitage appears and greets them. Jonas asks if they can access the Special Collections section to show the head librarian a manuscript they found. Agreeing to look at the text, Dr. Armitage shows the investigators downstairs and lets them in to the now-familiar room.
Dr. Armitage is confident that the other language in the manuscript is Arabic, but suggests that he bring back his colleague, Dr. Francis Morgan, to confirm. When Armitage leaves the room to find his colleague, Ivy and Ray head outside to see if they were followed, while Jonas waits alone with his gun drawn.
Dr. Armitage returns with his colleague nearly twenty minutes later. Dr. Morgan looks through the text and confirms that the unknown passages are written in Arabic. Furthermore, he states that the parchment or fabric that it is written upon appears to be roughly 500 years old, and that the text seems to describe various religions and cults that worshiped heathen gods from an ancient time.
Ivy stresses that it is extremely important that the manuscript be translated. Dr. Morgan agrees to have his staff translate the text, provided that the investigators donate the original manuscript to the university when the translation is complete. The translation will take approximately five days, and will require several graduate students and staff to complete. He asks the investigators to bring the book back on Monday.
Hungry and tired, Ivy, Jonas, and Ray leave the library and look for a place to lodge for the night. On the way, Jonas and Ray feel like they’re being watched; every face on the street seems menacing, and every set of eyes seem to survey them sinisterly. A few blocks from the library, they come to the Tilden Arms Hotel, a shabby but clean three-story building on High Street. Heading inside, they’re able to procure two adjoining rooms on the first floor. Jonas runs out to a local diner to get them dinner, and encounters the same strange feeling of being watched. He cautiously makes his way back to the hotel and the feeling passes.
Poorly fed and increasing paranoid, the investigators ready themselves for an uneasy night. As midnight approaches, Jonas and Ray try to get some much needed rest while ivy sits in her room, looking out into the back alley – rifle in hand.