Marching through the sands of drowsiness I attempt to push on with the story of the Phillips children and their adventure in the Dreamlands. We pick up as the children are leaving Nodens temple in the Sunken City and begin their journey towards the polar region of Leng and the city of Kadath.
Out of the Abyss
The children’s adventures in the Dreamlands where punktured by dreary days of finding something to do in the real world. Most of their time was spent building a makeshift treehouse in the large tree right outside their bedroom window. The children, mostly Nicholas, had discovered that they could climb right out their window on the third floor into the tree if they so desired and building a treehouse gave them ample purpose during the daylight hours. Adrian also befriended the old maid Claudett and often spent the day with her in the kitchen, helping her feed Aunt Lillian’s multitude of cats. None of them could wait until night-time to continue their epic journey as they felt the waking world was a prison vastly more dangerous than the monsters in the Dreamlands. That would soon change.
When the children next entered their dreams they awoke in the mid section of the tower leading down into the Abyss and up into the Dreamlands. They had with them the wondrous gifts given to them by Nodens and the strange aquatic creature that had attacked them on the way down was nowhere to be seen. They ascended the tower and into the pale morning light creeping up over the ocean horizon.
On the deck of the ship they had arrived in they saw the crew lined up and carrying wicked bladed weapons surrounded by the gray frog like tentacle monsters that had been hiding in the hold. The swarthy seamen were revealed to be goat legged Men of Leng like the first being they had met in the Enchanted Forest. They gloatingly declared their allegiance to Nyarlathotep and promptly attacked the children who desperately fought back. And they discovered that they had become mighty!
Using the gifts and powers from Hypnos and Nodens the children tore through the monsters arrayed before them. Adrian was the quickest to respond and promptly waylaid the captain with a savage blow from his clawed fingers that tore out the goatman’s throat and killed him instantly. Peter, Miranda and Nicholas bathed the ship on fire, light rays and powerful lighting sending the monsters sprawling for cover while Michael conjured up the powerful Elder Sign to ward them from the servants of the Old Ones.
The battle was short but fierce leaving all the monsters dead but also their black ship sinking from the energies unleashed in the fight. During the battle they had noticed a shining white ship approaching them from out of the sunrise. While the hulk of the burning ship sank around them they prepared for what was to come.
The White Ship and Beyond
As the white ship came into view the children noticed a single shining figure on board while the ship seemed to sail itself. The figure bore a striking resemblance to the old handyman back at the Smythe House, Cornelius Adams, but was young, spry and handsome. The man quickly introduced himself as King Kuranes of the city of Celephaïs. He invited the children on board his white ship for he was their ally and a great enemy of the monsters serving the ancient gods. As they spoke the white ship turned and sailed into the north wind towards the top of the world.
They sailed at great speed across the sea and the journey to Celephaïs took only a short time. The golden city was within view in about an hour of their time and the white ship approached it rapidly. As they set into the harbor the children noticed a flock of seagulls that had followed the ship froze in the air as if stuck in time. King Kuranes explained that he kept the city within a temporal barrier causing the city to be forever safe from any danger. Only the most powerful dreamers would be able to imagine a dream construct so formidable, he boasted to them as the ship came to a stop at the harbor. Inside the city the children were welcomed as heroes and carried on platforms through throngs of city dwellers showering them with adulation.
When they arrived at the kings temple palace high in the hills above the city he introduced them to dreamers from across the globe and from past times. Samurai warriors from feudal Japan, ancient Egyptian sorcerers, English noblemen and African witch doctors all gathered to meet these new dreamers destined for the horrid task of facing the ancient gods. King Kuranes had gathered them together so that they could train the children, to better prepare them for the last leg of their journey. And in the city of the king of dreamers they literally had all the time in the world to prepare.
In the children’s minds they spent months there in the city outside of time. Peter studied the art of fencing with the warriors from among the dreamers while Michael learned many occult secrets from the scholars from ancient Egypt and Africa. But they also explored the city in all its beauty and spent many days playing by the shore or searching its impressive markets for wares from across the world. Michael had a particular run in with a divine orrey of sorts in one of the palaces many rooms, one that tracked the relationship of the ancient gods to Azathoth the Daemon Sultan, The Blind Idiot God who sits at the center of creation in his profane glory. Watching the aging orrey Michael had a mind shattering revelation about the realities of their journey through the Dreamlands.
Each god or important person they had witnessed somehow seemed to signify an adult in their waking life, with demented Aunt Lillian holding the same position as Azathoth in the lives of the children. An all-powerful uncaring force without the whole of its mental faculties at a center of a strange court of beings adulating it like Lillian’s feral mowing cats. Claudette on the other hand seemed to parallel Shub-Niggurath the Dark Mother of a Thousand Young, she who signified fertility and life. Claudette who fed both the children and the swarm of Lillian´s cats as Lillian was unable to do.
General Ambrose Smythe, the former owner of Smythe House, seemed to signify Yog-Sothoth, The Key and The Gate, never seen yet everywhere in the house, from the paintings to the books the children read to pass the time, the concepts of time and knowledge both invariably linked to the outer god. King Kuranes of course paralleled Cornellius the caretaker who had started the children on this journey. The only being Michael was unable to place was the figure of Nyarlathotep, The Dark Man, messenger and agent of Azathoth, whose piece of the orrery broke of as Michael touched it. This revelation had great effect on the young boy and convinced him that this whole adventure was merely a figment of his imagination to deal with the boredom of Smythe House.
The Dark Man
As the children whiled away the day’s training for their journey to the Arctic land of the gods Nicholas noticed a dark spot in the sunny sky he had not noticed before. It seemed impossibly far away so at first he paid it no mind but as the days went by it seemed to grow until he alerted his siblings to its presence.
And still it grew. And grew. Until they could one day see the outlines of beings in its black borders. Monsters they had seen before on the black ship that had taken them to Nodens hall. And at their front a dark skinned man with the bearing of a Pharaoh. When confronted by this information King Kuranes grew distant and sullen as if troubled by some unspeakable truth. This shadow hung over the children’s study for weeks until one day, with a great shattering sound and terrible fury, the ward that the king had constructed against time, ruptured in an earth shaking crash. At the front of his army of Moon Beasts he had arrived, Nyarlathotep, The Dark Man, The Hunter in the Dark, The Crawling Chaos, and he meant to do battle.
As Moon Beasts rained down on the city and slaughtered its inhabitants King Kuranes instructed the children to flee, to continue their journey north as the time he could give them to prepare had passed. And then he rose above the city to confront the dark god in combat. The children decided on fleeing through the cities catacombs rather than risk going to the harbor for the White Ship and had escort of some of the dreamers that had trained them. As they ran towards the opening into the city’s underbelly they looked up and saw King Kuranes lose his titanic clash against the dark god and his limp body fall towards the ground. And with him the city started to crumble towards oblivion.
The next few hours where a frantic rush of running, hiding and fighting against the dark pharaohs minions but in the end the children found themselves deep in the Underworld heading north under the seas of the Dreamlands. Once they figured they had reached safety sleep took them and they awoke again in the waking world. Adrian was the first to awaken and before the other children could react he bolted out of bed and ran in his nightgown down the stairs towards the back door of the house.
Going straight out back he silently crept up to Cornelius’s shed and knocked on the door getting no answer. After a few times as the other children came running after him incurring shouts from Claudette he pushed the door of the shed open and found old Cornelius on his bed. He seemed to have died in his sleep. Cold fear gripped the hearts of the children as Claudette herded them away from the deceased man and back into the house in the cold morning light.
At this point my players were at the edge of their seat and Cornelius’s death so shortly after they had kind of chalked it all up to childish imagination from Michaels discovery of the orrery hit them really hard. Often the death of an important NPC is the best tool to signify a change of pace and usher in the need for resolution and revenge. Agent Coulson’s death in The Avengers can be used as a parallel to what I hoped to accomplish by killing off Cornelius at this time.
We will continue the travels of the Phillips children in the fifth and final chapter of the story. I hope your games run smooth and that you are able to manipulate and infuriate your players in equal measure. Roleplaying for me is about providing a real emotional experience and sometimes you have to play a little dirty to accomplish that. Until next time, game on.